It is no secret that the smile and charm of Earvin “Magic” Johnson can light up any room that he walks into, and it also is no secret that he is the epitome of success. Johnson played two years collegiately for the Michigan State Spartans and he helped them to win the NCAA Tournament in 1979. Johnson then left school early and was the second overall pick of the NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers. Johnson immediately turned around the fortunes of the Lakers as in his rookie season he helped them win an NBA Championship. Johnson would take part in one of the greatest dynasties in sports history as the Lakers would go on to win five NBA Championships during the decade of the 1980’s. But once Johnson’s playing career ended, his success never wavered as he has gone on to become a successful businessman which includes him being part owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. And that “Magic” touch led to Johnson rejoining the Lakers last year as he became the team’s president of basketball operations.
Johnson’s arrival gave the Lakers hope as this proud franchise has fallen on hard times. The Lakers have fallen on hard times as for the first time in franchise history they have missed the playoffs in four consecutive seasons. And since Johnson knows how to win, along with knowing about what it takes to make the Lakers successful, you expected order to be restored. But Johnson might have made a very costly decision that’ll hinder that.
The Lakers went into the 2017 in possession of the second overall pick. And as that draft class was loaded with talent, Los Angeles found themselves in a good position to turn things around. Johnson and Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka would select point guard Lonzo Ball who in his one season playing collegiately for the UCLA Bruins led the nation in assists with 7.7. per contest.
The Lakers drafted Ball for his passing ability, and like Johnson he is a big point guard. At 6’7″, Ball can see the floor and he knows how to get his teammates involved. In 34 games as a rookie, Ball is averaging 7.1 assists per game which is tied for seventh in the NBA. Ball also became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double as the potential for him to be a good player is there. But Ball’s talent cannot overshadow the sideshow antics of his father LaVar which are threatening to derail Lonzo’s career before it even starts, as Johnson is finding himself on the wrong end of “I told you so”.
The old saying is that a leopard never changes its spots which is exactly what the elder Ball has displayed. During Lonzo’s time at UCLA, LaVar would consistently spout off about his son being a better player that Golden State Warriors point guard Steph Curry, and the only team that his son would play for would be the Lakers. And after Ball declared for the NBA Draft after his freshman campaign, the Lakers were the only team that he worked out for as he shunned the Boston Celtics who had the first overall pick in the draft.
The Lakers would make the elder Ball’s dream a reality as they drafted his son who was born and raised in Southern California which fits right into his plan that Johnson fell hook, line, and sinker for.
LaVar wanted Lonzo drafted by the Lakers for marketing reasons as he was seeking to promote his Big Baller Brand. Big Baller Brand is the brainchild of LaVar which includes clothing and footwear. Initially LaVar was seeking a $1 billion endorsement deal from either Nike, Reebok, or Adidas for Lonzo as well as his two brothers LiAngelo and LaMelo. But once Ball was rebuffed by all three shoe giants he sought out on his own to create his own brand. And unfortunately for everyone involved, it does not matter to LaVar the methods that he uses to promote his product or the people that he hurts and destroys along the way.
The antics of the elder Ball have put an unnecessary target on the back of his son who on a nightly basis has to face players in the NBA that want to win and embarrass him in the process. The Lakers are currently sporting a record of 14-27 which is the worst record in the Western Conference and the fifth worst mark in the NBA. The Lakers are no closer to being a contender than when Johnson first took over, and their struggles have led to LaVar Ball doing what he does best which is the shoot off at the mouth.
Ball has been publicly critical of Lakers head coach Luke Walton claiming that the team does not want to play for him. Ball has also criticized Walton’s play calling at times which includes not allowing his son to take the last shot in order to win the game. But this should not be surprising to anyone that has followed the elder Ball who criticized the AAU coach of his two younger sons, and took it as far to enter the locker room at halftime to show him up by addressing the team. LaVar Ball wants to be in control of every situation that he’s involved in and does not care who’s toes that he has to step on.
Since the start of the NBA season, the elder Ball has been banned from talking to the media at Staples Center, while he was also forced to have a face-to-face sit down with Johnson and other Lakers front office personnel in regards to him being outspoken. Johnson’s first and only priority is what is best for the Lakers which means that he should have never given into the Ball Family sideshow. And as Johnson has made this bed, he will have to lie in it as well.
At this point I do not believe that Johnson is ready to give up on the Lonzo Ball experiment, but the outlandish father might force him to think otherwise. It would be easy to say that the Lakers could merely trade Ball. But it won’t be that easy because I do not see too many teams around the NBA that are going to be lining up to take Lonzo off of the Lakers hands since it is obviously a package deal being that the son does not have the wherewithal to distance himself from his father. And to make matters worse, the Lakers are really in a bad situation since they more than likely won’t have their first-round pick in the upcoming draft which means that their continued losing will only result in the elder Ball looking to criticize Walton more.
Johnson was a smart basketball player, and he’s an even smarter businessman and he should have never allowed himself to be suckered by a glorified con man in LaVar Ball who’s Big Baller Brand recently received a failing grade from the Better Business Bureau. Johnson should have taken notice when a basketball lifer in Jerry Colangelo who is currently serving as a special adviser for the Philadelphia 76ers publicly expressed reservations in drafting the young Ball due to the people around him which was a direct reference to his father.
Johnson felt that the young Ball could be a leader for the Lakers, while his father promised the Hall of Fame point that he would stay out of the way and let him groom his son in the NBA. But LaVar Ball has betrayed that and he’s now attempting to destroy everything that the Lakers stand for which is class. The Lakers need leadership and a culture change in their locker room. But due to Johnson’s negligence in regards to not doing his homework on LaVar Ball, all that they have received is a headache bigger than all of their NBA Championships put together.