LaVar Ball The Next Marv Marinovich? Will NBA Draft Pick Lonzo Ball Turn Out Like Todd Marinovich [Opinion]

If decades ago, Marv Marinovich, father of one-time USC football star Todd Marinovich, had written a how-to book about how to be a controlling stage parent/manager to a kid with athletic talent, then one would assume that LaVar Ball, father of Lonzo Ball, who was chosen second last week in the NBA Draft by the Los Angeles Lakers, had memorized every page. While Lonzo Ball, 19, is obviously a basketball phenom, many people are watching his father LaVar Ball virtually pushing his son out of the way to get face time with every camera in the room and wondering how long it will take before Lonzo Ball implodes or has a nervous breakdown.

People over the age of 40 remember Todd Marinovich for his promise as a football player, but even more, they remember his father Marv Marinovich, who had far more ambition for his son Todd’s career than Todd ever had. Back when almost every football player actually played four years in college before ever touching a football in the NFL, Todd Marinovich left his position as starting quarterback at USC early, just after his sophomore year, to play quarterback for the Raiders. Todd Marinovich was the first freshman ever to start at the position in USC history. But Todd Marinovich, who had been controlled by father Marv Marinovich practically since he was a toddler, started to rebel against his father after he started playing for the Raiders, got involved with drugs, and quit sports for good. Since then, Todd Marinovich has had scrapes with the law, including an arrest last year when he was found naked and high in a neighbor’s backyard.

For those of us old enough to remember Marv Marinovich and the way he spouted off back in the day about his son’s athletic prowess, it is impossible to hear LaVar Ball and not get the same creepy feeling that one used to get from Marv Marinovich. And just like people used to feel sorry for Todd Marinovich every time Marv Marinovich spoke, even though Todd Marinovich was seemingly achieving the unachievable, that’s the way fans feel about Lonzo Ball. Poor kid.

Marv Marinovich and LaVar Ball are practically mirror images of one another, as both were failed professional athletes themselves who went on after their careers ended committed to living out their sports fantasies through their children. It’s like the overweight women on the show Toddlers & Tiaras, acting out their little girl’s routines in the audience during pageants. Marv Marinovich played college football but was a failure in professional football, playing just under three years where he was said to overtrain and bulk up too much, causing injuries. LaVar Ball was also a college football player who played on an NFL practice squad and played professionally overseas for the London Monarchs for one season. LaVar Ball entered the NFL draft but went undrafted. Both men abandoned their own sports dreams to put all their time and attention into creating superhuman sons who one day would achieve what they couldn’t.

But many sports journalists are saying that LaVar Ball, father of the newest Los Angeles Laker, Lonzo Ball, is Marv Marinovich times four and that he makes some of the other more notorious sports dads/coaches look tame. Jesse Smithey, sports columnist for the Knoxville News Sentinel, compares LaVar Ball to Marv Marinovich, father of Todd, Earl Woods, father of Tiger Woods, and Richard Williams, father of Venus and Serena Williams, unfavorably.

“But LaVar Ball, well he makes Woods, Williams, and Marinovich seem like Danny Tanner.”

Danny Tanner was the warm and fuzzy dad on the sitcom Full House, by the way. And it looks like LaVar Ball is just getting started, as he has two other basketball playing sons who he expects will help add to his sports dynasty. And currently, Lonzo Ball says he does not mind his father’s antics and acting out, but even fans of Lonzo Ball wonder how long that will last, and how the Lakers will be able to put up with LaVar Ball, who seems to think that he and Lonzo are a package deal.

And despite LaVar Ball’s failures as a professional athlete, he is still publicly bragging about what a star he was back in the day.

“Surely, you’ve heard of LaVar Ball by now, right? The vociferous former dud of a basketball player who claims Michael Jordan wouldn’t have been able to score two points against him back in the day.”

LaVar Ball is the guy who has a soundbite for the press even when nobody has asked him a question. According to Ball, last year UCLA did poorly in the postseason because they had “too many white guys” on the team. LaVar Ball had basketball shoes made for his son and is selling them for $495 a pair. He also doesn’t think much of women in sports journalism, telling one, in particular, to “stay in her lane” in a live interview.


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But perhaps the most telling thing about LaVar Ball is the way Todd Marinovich is reacting to him. Marinovich says that LaVar Ball is making him cringe.

“I wish people would just step back and just let these kids have fun.”

Todd Marinovich has obviously never been able to shake the memories of being constantly trained by a father who wanted to create the “perfect quarterback” using Eastern bloc-style training. Marinovich believes that Lonzo Ball could use some breathing room.

“I cringe a little bit at over-involvement.”

But LaVar Ball has made it clear that he doesn’t care what other people think, and he could care less about their criticism.

What do you think of LaVar Ball? Does he remind you of Marv Marinovich? Do you think Lonzo Ball will burn out with the Lakers?

[Featured Image by Mike Stobe/Getty Images]