Tomase: Lonzo Ball's gloriously self-aware Foot Locker commercial proves he might escape LaVar's shadow after all

John Tomase
June 14, 2017 - 11:46 am
Lonzo and Lavar Ball in happy times.

Richard Mackson/USA Today Sports

There's hope for Lonzo Ball.

The word "hilarious" gets thrown around click-baity websites all the time (never this one, though), and 95 percent of the time what's considered "hilarious" barely merits a chuckle. It has become a meaningless nonsense word that you'll see at the bottom of a site in those depressing blocks of stories about celebrities who grew up to look like THIS, or the shocking truth about the 90-year-old triathlete, or how she had no idea someone was about to snap a photo.

Occasionally, though, "hilarious" actually fits. Which brings us to the video taking the internet by storm today. It's a Foot Locker ad of NBA draft hopefuls detailing their relationships with their dads in advance of Father's Day. Florida State's Jonathan Isaac calls his dad special. Kentucky's De'Aaron Fox reminisces about one-on-one in the driveway. Duke's Jayson Tatum cherishes his attendance at every game.

And then it's Lonzo's turn.

"Of course there's that big day when your dad berates your high school coach in front of an entire crowd for not getting you enough touches," he says in the same contemplative tone of thanks. "Or that special moment when your dad sits you down and tells you where you're going to college . . . copyrights your name to make it a part of a family lifestyle brand. . . Went on First Take and shouted back and forth with Stephen A. Smith about how you're already better than the reigning league MVP. . ."

Watch the rest for yourself. It is, dare I say it, hilarious. But it's more than that, too.

Lost in the hurricane of destruction known as LaVar Ball is the easily overlooked fact that his impressively self-aware son seemingly possesses none of the family love for bluster.
Lonzo Ball made his name at UCLA as an unselfish superstar, a pass-first point guard in the mode of Jason Kidd who helped lead the Bruins to one of the highest team shooting percentages in NCAA history.

He's not demonstrative on the court, he doesn't particularly seek out his offense, and he seemed perfectly content setting up his teammates to win game after game after game.
As we ponder Lonzo's NBA future, it seems safe to say he's not on the radar of Celtics boss Danny Ainge, simply because Washington's Markelle Fultz is considered a better all-around player who can create his own shot with a game (and a jumper) more suited to the NBA.

But watching that commercial, and considering the low-key way with which Lonzo conducted himself throughout his college career, whatever team decides to draft him should feel better about the possibility that LaVar Ball's hold on his eldest son probably won't last very long once he reaches the NBA.

LaVar has already made it clear he wants his son to play for the Lakers as part of the Big Baller brand's domination of southern California, but overbearing stage dads don't get to make those kind of choices, no matter how many of the league's other 29 teams they refuse to let their kid work out for.

Lonzo comes off as a kid who'll eventually make his own way, whether he ends up in Philadelphia or Boston or Phoenix. If by some chance Ainge actually believes that Ball is a better player than Fultz -- even though that seems unlikely -- the fact that the former refused to work out here shouldn't be a deal-breaker. Ball has always played with a self-possessed confidence that should translate to any level. And frankly, landing 3,000 miles away from his dad sounds like a blessing.

The fact that he's able to mock the whole situation in such a natural, winking way suggests he'll eventually emerge from his father's sizable shadow and become his own man.

I realize the irony of citing an advertisement to highlight Lonzo's potential independence from his brand-obsessed father, but let's give the kid credit where it's due. There's hope for him yet. Here's hoping his little brothers are watching.

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