Don't Believe Me Just Watch
LaVar Ball is Neo. He gobbles red pills like Skittles. His eyes are open. The Oracle prophesized that The One would come to deliver us from our sleep and LaVar is our alarm clock personified, imploring us to see what has been in front of us all along. Million-dollar shoe contracts for coaches, a rule book the size of a thesaurus, a billion-dollar postseason tournament and, of course, the uncompensated labor force. LaVar knows the NCAA is a sham and he intends to do something about it.
He recently announced his plans to start the JBA, the Junior Basketball Association. The league’s stated purpose is to provide high school prospects the opportunity to pursue a professional basketball career without first making the pitstop to college. The league is slated to begin in the summer of 2018.
The plan has already been met with skepticism and naysayers are quick to point out the obvious: LaVar is a carnival barker. He is exploiting his kids’ talents to parlay into fame for himself. The NBA already has the G-League. It will never work.
But these critiques are shortsighted and honestly, a bit lazy. Yes, LaVar cuts a world class WWE promo every time he is on camera. But in doing so, he is also leveraging thousands of dollars’ worth of free advertising and marketing for his start-up company. Sure, his sons’ talents are his vessel to stardom, but the same can be said of the Kardashians or the Mannings, both of whom have been elevated to the status of American royalty.
And yes, there is the G-League. But there are also professional leagues in literally every corner of the world with varying degrees of talent and competition. The JBA is another league; it doesn’t have to directly compete with the G-League. The JBA will run through the summer so it will not conflict with the G-League’s season, so promising prospects can do a tour in the JBA before working their way up to the G-League. Think of it as the NBA’s version of Single A ball. Rosters full of raw talent not quite ready for the Show.
The JBA can also just be a place where young men do what they love for some money while they figure out their lives. Instead of going to far away outposts to play ball, they can do it here in the United States with family and friends to support them. Maybe time in the JBA turns into a sustained professional career in the NBA for some promising player. Or maybe it is just something cool to add to a resume or talk about on a job interview. Either way, it is an opportunity. A lane, if you will.
But to pull this off, LaVar will need some help – sponsorship and investment from supporters who share his vision. Rather than be caught up in a federal investigation with institutions of higher learning, shoe companies can invest in the JBA without fear of repercussions from the NCAA or the FBI. Aspiring owners can test the waters of franchise ownership by first purchasing a team in the JBA. Former players looking to referee, coach or work in an NBA front office can cut their teeth in the JBA.
So many things must go right for this not to go wrong. But LaVar doesn’t see the what-ifs, only his vision of the what the JBA could be. And regardless of what anyone thinks, that vision is beautiful.
LaVar Ball is Moses. Tired of an unjust system, he has demanded that his people be set free. He has promised us that so much more awaits us on the other side of the Red Sea. But we are skeptical, so we revolt and openly question his vision. LaVar is undeterred. He has seen the Promised Land. The sight of it makes him smile because he knows it is more beautiful than we could have ever imagined.