LeBron James issues warning shot to outspoken LaVar Ball

ByDave McMenamin ESPN logo
Wednesday, March 22, 2017

LOS ANGELES -- LeBron Jamesdirected a cease-and-desist order of sorts on Tuesday to LaVar Ball, the outspoken father of three -- including star UCLA freshmanLonzo Ball-- who said earlier this month that his children are set up better for future success than those of the Cleveland Cavaliers' star.

"Keep my kids' name out of your mouth. Keep my family out of your mouth," James said of LaVar Ball to ESPN on Tuesday, as the Cavaliers practiced on UCLA's campus, two days after a road victory over theLos Angeles Lakers.

"This is dad to dad. It's a problem now."

James' two sons, 12-year-old LeBron James Jr. and 9-year-old Bryce Maximus James, have shown plenty of promise on the AAU circuit -- to the point where the eldest son, "Bronny," has standing verbal scholarship offers fromDuke and Kentucky, as ESPN reported last summer.

The Ball family includes Lonzo Ball and his two younger brothers, 18-year-old LiAngelo and 15-year-old LaMelo, both of whom will attend UCLA on scholarships in the coming years.

LaVar Ball has been outspoken on a number of topics regarding his children in recent months, and he brought James' family into the conversation while appearing on a recent episode of the In the Zone with Chris Broussard podcast. During the appearance, Ball suggested his sons were better set up for future success in basketball than James' because the four-time NBA MVP's pedigree will be too much for them to live up to.

"The monsters in the NBA, their dads wasn't that good," Ball said. "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."

Ball, a former professional football player, also said that James' success would preclude him from helping his sons develop their own playing careers.

"Let's say I really excelled in football and made millions and millions of dollars. Do I spend that time with them now? No, I've got the offseason, I've got to worry about myself. Now I just buy you everything. Now I get you a trainer and hope you turn out to be OK," Ball said on the podcast. "Whereas the fact that I wasn't all that, allows me to spend all that time to make my boys all that."

LaVar Ball has said he was good enough to "kill" Michael Jordan one-on-one in his prime, which would seem to punch a hole in his theory that his sons are better off because their father was not an all-time great.

On Tuesday night, following James' retort, Ball said he doesn't have a problem with James while sticking by 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."

While Ball was critical of James' children, he has offered otherworldly praise to his own, recently causing a stir by saying that Lonzo is already better than back-to-back MVP Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors.

Curry sidestepped the comparison, telling reporters, "I don't want to talk about that. I wish his kids the best, and I know they'll be great NBA players. That's their job. That's it."

Asked if LaVar Ball's comments would put pressure on his children as they advance in their basketball careers, Curry added: "Every person should parent their kid as they feel they should."

James has been careful to let his sons live life as any other preteens would, despite their famous father. As Bronny's highlight videos from AAU tournaments have gone viral in recent years, James has stuck to a consistent answer when asked about his son's potential in the sport.

"He has a chance," James has often said. "That's all you can ask for."

As for Lonzo Ball -- the 6-foot-6, 190-pound point guard who has led UCLA into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament and is expected to be a top-three pick in the 2017 NBA draft -- James was complimentary of his game.

"I actually like [Lonzo]," James told ESPN. "I like his game."

LaVar Ball, though, is the issue.

"He can talk all about his brand, talk about his sons, talk about basketball, talk about me," James told ESPN. "But keep my family out of this."

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