Even if you aren’t the biggest basketball fan, you’re probably familiar with LaVar Ball. While his sons, Lonzo, LiAngleo, and LaMelo, all have made a name for themselves on the basketball court, LaVar has primarily made headlines with his mouth. For better or worse, he has plenty of opinions and is never afraid to share them.
Given his knack for talking a big game and the fact that his three sons are all professional athletes, it’s easy to assume that LaVar Ball has some skills of his own. While that might be true, the patriarch of the Ball family never played NBA basketball.
LaVar Ball played basketball but wasn’t good enough to reach the NBA
Despite his gift of gab, we don’t know that much about LaVar Ball’s basketball career. The details that do exist in the public record, however, paint a picture of a capable, if unremarkable player.
After high school, Ball started his collegiate career at West Los Angeles College; while he wasn’t exactly facing the highest level of competition there, he was athletic enough to make his mark. As documented by an LA Times report from 1986, Ball “a school record last season with 316 rebounds” and posted a 33-point, 18-rebound effort against Porterville.
When Ball moved up to the next level, though, his skills no longer cut it. During one season at Division-I Washington State, he averaged 2.2 points and 2.3 rebounds per game in one season of action; he then transferred to Cal State Los Angeles, dropping back down to D-II.
During a Ball in the Family Q+A, LaVar also provided some insight into the type of player he was. Despite his claims that he could beat Michael Jordan in one-on-one, it sounds like raw talent wasn’t Ball’s strong point.
“My favorite basketball player watching growing up was Charles Barkley,” he explained, as documented by For The Win. That boy used to play. He was like me, too. Heavy, light-skinned and just played with a motor that wouldn’t stop.”
Swapping basketball for football
While LaVar Ball was never able to make it to the NBA, he got a bit closer to the NFL.
Ball played football in high school and, after his college basketball career ended, returned to the gridiron. He suited up for a season at Long Beach City College and managed to earn a tryout with the New York Jets.
As laid out by Natalie Weiner of Bleacher Report, Ball spent two years on the Jets’ practice squad, one as a tight end and another as a defensive end. The only he ever saw was in the World League of American Football and, after a brief stint on the Panthers practice squad, LaVar suffered an injury and retired.
On the whole, recollections of Ball are limited, but they seem to match up with the rest of his career. He was athletic, although not quite talented enough to make it at the highest level; he was also apparently quite the talker, even in the days before the Big Baller Brand.
LaVar Ball didn’t make it to the NBA, but his sons are picking up the slack
Given LaVar Ball’s general antics, it’s easy to paint his entire family with the same brush. His sons, however, do seem to be legitimate basketball talents.
When the 2020-21 campaign officially begins, Lonzo Ball will be in his fourth NBA season; while he hasn’t exactly turned into a game-breaking star and has battled injury issues, he’s a capable pro who’s meshed well with Zion Williamson. LiAngleo Ball joined the Oklahoma City Thunder’s G-League affiliate before the coronavirus ended the season, and LaMelo is poised to become a lottery pick in the 2020 NBA draft.
LaVar Ball never made it to the NBA; that reality, however, hasn’t stopped him from becoming a celebrity in his own right.
Stats courtesy of Sports-Reference