No one alive, perhaps with the exception of Colin Kaepernick, has made more off-field news in sports over the past eight months than Lavar Ball. The mastermind behind the Big Baller Brand has been everywhere, from the First Take set to Colin Cowherd’s California studio to this past Thursday’s NBA Draft in Brooklyn. He’s far more recognizable than any parent in athletics, and it’s arguable his public presence as the father of a potential star, or stars, is historically strong.
- People like Lavar Ball. We know this because ratings rise whenever he’s discussed, interest level in sports talk leaps from the page whenever he’s a topic, and every network and media entity sprints to find him whenever he’s in a room.
- People really don’t like Lavar Ball. We know this because ratings rise whenever he’s discussed, interest level in sports talk leaps from the page whenever he’s a topic, and every network and media entity sprints to find him whenever he’s in a room.
- People find Lavar Ball really compelling. We know this because ratings rise whenever he’s discussed, interest level in sports talk leaps from the page whenever he’s a topic, and every network and media entity sprints to find him whenever he’s in a room.
Not enough individuals discuss what a good father he is to his children, and although there’s certainly a benefit to him personally for pushing his sons to succeed and pushing them down the throat of the American sports community, it’s undeniable he’s been there for them. Is he a good role model? That’s subjective, but I’d say the world would likely be much better if there were more (sort of) like him. However, maybe their effect would be behind the scenes, rather than in front of every camera within eyesight.
Lavar is a hype man, in the vain of Jeffrey Tambor’s Hank Kingsley. Look, “hey now” sells tickets, folks. In the realm of reality, he’s a modern-day Don King, and he can play the Conor McGregor or Floyd Mayweather role HIMSELF, taking all the adulation and vitriol on his own shoulders. Whether a byproduct or by design, it permits his sons to play basketball, remain silent, and stay out of the fame spiral that dooms so many young athletes and entertainers.
There’s no better hype man in WWE than Paul Heyman, who has taken his Brock Lesnar (and CM Punk) advocate character and made it one of the most consistently entertaining personas of the century in professional wrestling. In much a similar fashion to Ball, Heyman does the talking, and Brock does the wrestling. He can talk, and based on the recent, brilliant Foot Locker ad spot, so can Lonzo, but he never has to because he’s got backup.
Pro Wrestling Sheet reported on Saturday that WWE was interested in Lavar, and was actively attempting to convince Ball to appear on tonight’s RAW in Los Angeles. This is Brock’s last scheduled appearance before the Great Balls of Fire Pay Per View event, which features a highly anticipated WWE Universal Championship bout between Lesnar and number one contender, Samoa Joe.
So, hype man Lavar Ball meets hype man Paul Heyman. How easy is this?
Slow down there, tiger. In no way should Ball be anywhere near Heyman, at least not in an in-ring segment.
The angle to set up Joe and Lesnar has been extraordinary, both because the performances have been intense and because it’s a pairing no one has ever seen before. But, it’s also worked so well because it’s all felt legitimate and real. The minute Lavar Ball strolls into the ring with Paul Heyman and Brock Lesnar, all of that goes out the window. This isn’t 1998, and Ball is not Mike Tyson. The one thing WWE cannot afford to do is take any of the luster off July 9’s main event.
Lavar will be entertaining, people will watch, and as sports has hit a down period, there will be photos in most dailies tomorrow, not to mention splashed across every website on the planet. WWE knows this, and they’re nothing if not infatuated with even tertiary mainstream media coverage. That’s why they want Lavar Ball.
And, that’s why they SHOULD want Lavar Ball.
...Just not associated with Brock Lesnar and Samoa Joe.
The obvious space for Lavar Ball is in a throwaway angle that contains its share of comedy or lighthearted, over-the-top content. The answer is to place him with Titus O’Neil and juxtapose the Big Baller Brand with the Titus Brand. Let Lavar have fun, let him smile and laugh and get himself and his sons over, and allow O’Neil to play off him. Titus isn’t the best on a script, but he’s genuinely a pleasant and funny man.
Not to mention, Titus O’Neil was named Celebrity Dad of the Year in 2015. What better spot for Lavar, the man who’s managed to take his station AS A DAD and somehow used that to become a minor CELEBRITY?
Here, Lavar makes the Titus Brand segment worth paying attention to for the first time ever; putting eyes on Titus O’Neil, on Apollo Crews, and on Akira Tozawa. Here, WWE makes Lavar Ball’s night, because he’s on national cable television, he’s able to wear “BBB” from head to toe, and he gets to do it in the Staples Center, the building his son will be playing in this fall.
Not only would it be fascinating on a surface level, it’s a strong enough moment that RAW could lead the second or third hour with it. The show could actually pick up a few viewers from the sports world that wouldn’t be caught dead watching professional wrestling on a Monday night otherwise.
While Lavar makes sense with Heyman on paper, in reality it would be an unfathomable mistake to tie Ball to Heyman, unless there’s a quick backstage moment where the two run into one another and Paul gives Lavar props. “Sir, I’ve been watching you from afar, and from one marketing genius to another, kudos to you.” That said, it would be best if Brock Lesnar isn’t ever shown on the same television screen with Lavar Ball.
Of course, no one knows for sure whether Ball will actually appear on RAW, but I would argue WWE is doing the right thing in trying to secure him for the show. Your like or dislike of the man and his tactics are irrelevant to the bottom line for the company, and also for the Big Baller Brand.
It may sound gross to you, but this isn’t just a smart play by Vince McMahon, it’s a no-brainer. People may say they hate him, but they care about him. If they tell you otherwise, the data indicates many of them are liars. They have an opinion on him, and just like Howard Stern, those that don’t like him are even more likely to watch.
Provided he’s used in the proper spot, stays in his lane, and doesn’t dilute a red-hot Universal Championship program, there’s precisely no reason why this isn’t a win for all sides.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated to correct references to the June 26 Raw being the ‘go home’ show for Great Balls of Fire, which is actually two weeks away on July 9.