”We not trippin’ off school,” LaMelo Ball, the NBA Rookie of the Year last season, told his GQ interviewer. ”We don’t need school. And school not even teachin’ you [bleep] — what the [bleep] is school?”
Yep. That got some attention.
I think a lot of us were just waiting for some big-time athlete to blurt out such an opinion, rather than giving the usual lip service to the value of education, self-reflection, book knowledge, refined discourse, college diplomas, forward thinking, etc.
Ball plays for the Hornets and was the third pick in the 2020 draft. He’s also the brother of new Bulls guard Lonzo Ball and LiAngelo Ball, who is a free agent.
This trio is really something, being the offspring of 6-6 former college football and basketball player LaVar Ball and 6-0 former college basketball player Tina Slatinsky Ball. And, of course, there’s that perfect last name.
You could say the Balls were bred to play hoops, with their aggressive and outspoken dad guiding them through their youth with the goal of being global basketball stars seemingly the only thing on his mind. He even created his own junior pro league for his sons to play in and started an apparel company, Big Baller Brand, to market clothes they endorsed.
And, of course, the Balls have that California necessity, a reality show, ”Ball in the Family.”
LaVar projects shades of notorious sports and entertainment dads such as Marv Marinovich, Stefano Capriati, Peter Graf, Earl Woods, Joe (Jackson Five) Jackson, Kris Kardashian and Jamie Spears.
There long have been parents who lived through their gifted children, with little concern about their offspring’s education, mental health or socialization skills, caring mainly about the pursuit of fame and riches.
So that parental manipulation must be considered whenever the affected child says or does stuff that seems a little loony. Remember that when thinking about LaMelo Ball.
Consider that his college career consists of nothing. At 16, he dropped out of high school, turned pro and played in Lithuania and Australia, neither of which he liked. About Australia, he said to GQ: ”Big-ass spiders. I’m talking this big. Hellll naw!”
The kid, just 19 when he did the interview, is one of the youngest NBA stars ever, being close in certain skills to the rarefied genius of teen stars Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Of course, he was primed for such, having scored 92 points in a high school game when he was only 15.
What he said about school is true on one level: If you’re a freakishly gifted athlete, you don’t need anything but your game to earn a living. On another level, however, it’s so wrong because our world depends on education, thoughtfulness and knowledge all being directed toward the global problems we live with and, hopefully, someday can solve.
LaMelo quickly sensed a possible public-relations problem with his GQ words and wrote on Instagram: ”Let me rephrase . . . school not for EVERYBODY.”
But it’s for a lot.
I’ve always thought the best line preceding LaMelo’s dissing of higher education came from former Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones, who back in 2012 tweeted: ”Why should we have to go to class if we come here to play FOOTBALL, we ain’t come to play SCHOOL, classes are POINTLESS.”
That got him a lot of attention, and he later regretted it. Two and a half years later, he tweeted: ”can’t believe I tweeted something as stupid as this but hey, we live and we learn, NOTHING is more important then education.”
Yes, the ”then” misspelling got him a lot of sarcastic responses. But Jones had the last laugh: He graduated from Ohio State.
Jones and LaMelo seem to be high-spirited, playful, young men — Jones still has 1.5 million Twitter followers and often tweets about college football — and we must cut developing young men some slack. Who doesn’t grow up? (Well, at least a bit.)
Our country was built on the twin ideals of democracy and capitalism. Both those things allow for profiting off your skills, and profiting has come to college sports, for sure.
You could ask budding teenage Alabama football star Kool-Aid McKinstry about that. He just signed a big promotional contract with — yup — Kool-Aid.
So, LaMelo, play ball. College ain’t for everyone. Neither is proper grammar.
But they’re certainly not (bleep).