Anyone who knows me personally (which is pretty much everyone reading this blog), knows that I love sports. I will watch almost any sport. I cruise ESPN3 broadcasts for chances to watch rugby or cricket or powerlifting competitions. I watch soccer a lot (and read about it… and play it). I really enjoy baseball.
I really, really like basketball. Soccer is my favorite, but basketball and baseball are right up there behind it on my list. Watching the NBA, watching these phenomenal athletes fly around and move the ball and do crazy, creative things… it’s so much fun.
If you didn’t know, the Golden State Warriors have been kind of a big deal for a few years now. They formed this electric way of playing, mostly built around spacing and shooting at historic levels. And then, after going to two straight Finals, winning one and losing one to Lebron (who is an alien force that will probably play for another 100 years), they went and got maybe the second best player in the league: Kevin Durant. Who is perfect for them. And they won another Finals the year he got there.
Kevin Durant is an interesting guy. I mean, he’s an amazing basketball player that doesn’t fit into any boxes. The guy is 7-foot and plays… anywhere his team needs, basically. His jump shot is pure poetry. And those telescoping arms are suddenly defensive nightmares waiting at the rim. He’s fun to watch play. But he’s also interesting off the court for any number of reasons.
A couple weeks ago, I was listening to a long podcast that he did with the Ringer’s Bill Simmons. It’s broken into two parts because of length (and clicks/downloads, I’m sure). Around minute 43 of part 2, he is asked about Lavar Ball. If you don’t know who Lavar Ball is, you can Google him. Let’s just say he’s the father of an NBA player that, for a long time, got more press than his very talented son. He talks a lot. And loudly.
Most of the media is very annoyed by him. I find him very annoying. Braggadocio has never been my preferred means of communication. I prefer arrogance be a little bit more PR friendly. Like I how do all the time. I figured Durant would use the opportunity to express either total disinterest in this off-court noise or dismissive annoyance at such a loudmouth.
Turns out KD loves Lavar Ball. I thought, before he explained, that it must be because of their matching business ambition. But that wasn’t it. Durant explains that he has seen Lavar Ball all his life. He’s an AAU dad, stalking his son’s game and thinking he can coach and run the team with his son as the star. That guy has been on the sidelines of KD’s games for years.
In his initial explanation, you can hear him start to say what he wants to say: “I grew up with- I grew up watching dads like him. I appreciate what he brings. I wish…” He then goes on to say precisely what he means. That he and his father are close now but not when he was younger. “I wish I had a dad like that growing up. A lot of players wish they had dads like Lavar.”
I’d never thought of Lavar Ball like that before. All I could see was the noise and the craziness and the arrogance and, honestly, the foolishness (because I think he’s helped his sons make some unwise decisions). I didn’t read all that in the most obvious way it was there to be read: Lavar is on his sons’ side. I found KD’s fondness for that so refreshing.
How many people out there just wish they had someone taking up for them, being unabashedly on their side, loudly believing their son/daughter/friend was the best in the world? How many people wish they had a fanatically involved parent in their life? How many people look at what I take for granted, either with my kids or with my father, and feel the ache of what they never had?
Lavar Ball is still terribly annoying to me. But I don’t think I’ll ever think about him quite the same. When I view him as a fellow father, as a son, and not just through the lens of sports media, I can’t help but see something different now.
His antics are still deeply annoying. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll never act like that. But I don’t think I’ll be able to look at him without hearing Kevin Durant, one of the richest, most gifted, accomplished people on the planet, saying they wish they’d had a dad like him.
I hope my kids look at me when they’re older and are grateful I was there for them, however I manage to do that. I know I’m grateful for my own father’s presence in the past and now (and hopefully long into the future). And I hope I can provide that kind of voice, that of a fanatical supporter, for others who need it. I hope my colleagues and friends and people in my church and people who will take my job… I hope they see me on the sidelines, making posters and pointing out how great they are.
If I can get my kids and other people I love to roll their eyes because “there he goes again. That’s just my dad/friend/mentor,” I’ll consider myself well-accomplished in life. The fewer people that we have in the world saying that they never had someone like that, I think the better off we’ll all be.
I guess we all need to take some cues from Lavar Ball. I never thought I’d say that, but… here we are. What a world.
The image attached above was from a New York Times story found here. If you’re wanting a story about how unique and interesting Kevin Durant is off the court, it’s not a bad place to look.