Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James’ family was the latest target of outspoken basketball dad LaVar Ball’s hype machine.
Ball — father of UCLA guard Lonzo Ball, as well as UCLA commits LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball — said earlier this month that his children are set up better for future NBA success than James’ sons, 12-year-old LeBron James Jr. and 9-year-old Bryce Maximus James.
James, who was practicing on UCLA’s campus two days after the Cavaliers’ victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, responded to Ball’s comments on Tuesday.
“Keep my kids’ name out of your mouth. Keep my family out of your mouth,” James said. “This is dad to dad. It’s a problem now.”
James’ sons have already shown potential on the AAU circuit, which has led to LeBron Jr. already receiving standing verbal scholarship offers from Duke and Kentucky.
Lonzo Ball is currently leading UCLA through the NCAA Tournament and is a finalist for the Naismith Player of the Year Award. The six-foot-six freshman averaged 14.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 7.6 assists per game during the 2016-17 season.
LiAngelo, 18, and LaMelo, 15, have also gained national attention as high school prep standouts, including the latter’s 92-point performance against Chino Hills in February.
LaVar Ball has been outspoken on numerous topics during recent months regarding his sons. During an appearance on the In the Zone with Chris Broussard podcast, Ball suggested his sons were better set up for NBA success than James’ sons because they won’t be overshadowed by the four-time NBA MVP’s pedigree.
“The monsters in the NBA, their dads wasn’t that good. They were OK, they was players, but the fact that the old [Dell] Curry wasn’t no All-Star, he wasn’t cold. He could shoot the ball, though. Kobe Bryant, his dad wasn’t all that, that’s why he’s such a monster.
“You got LeBron, it’s going to be hard for his kids because they are going to look at them like, ‘You got to be just like your dad.’ And after a while, that pressure starts sitting on you like, ‘Why do I got to be just like him? What can’t I just be me?’ And then they are going to be like, ‘Aw, you’re soft, you’re not that good.’ Because the expectation is very, very high.”
Among other comments — including comparing his son Lonzo to two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry — Ball said he was good enough to “kill” Michael Jordan in a game of one-on-one in his prime, despite averaging 2.2 points and 2.3 rebounds per game during the 1987-88 season at Washington State prior to transferring to a smaller school in order to receive more playing time. For the record, Jordan averaged an NBA-best 35.0 points per game that same year.
On Tuesday night, Ball responded to James’ retort by saying he doesn’t have a problem with the three-time NBA Champion, but he stuck to his original point.
“They asked me a question about, do I think superstar players’ kids are good. And just my opinion that I’ve never seen one that was really good,” Ball said on Fox Sport Radio. “LeBron is going to make his kids probably one of the best players ever, according to him… but I’ve never seen one really live up to what their dad has done, so he could be the first or the last.”
James did, however, credit Lonzo Ball for a stellar freshman campaign during his media session on Tuesday.
“I actually like [Lonzo],” James told ESPN. “I like his game.”
But he does take issue with the outspoken father’s comments.
“He can talk all about his brand, talk about his sons, talk about basketball, talk about me,” James said of Ball. “But keep my family out of this.”
[Featured Image by Harry How/Getty Images]