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Black Community Opinions

Local Voices: Don’t Be That Dad

For several years the Ball family of Southern California has been in the news for a multitude of reasons. The father and his three sons have confused basketball abilities with life skills.

All parents have the right to teach, home school, and train their children as they wish. A parent’s number one job is to prepare children for their lives, period. There will come a time, Dad, when your three children will have to make their own way in the world.

Kudos, Mr. Ball, for son #1 being drafted out of UCLA with the second pick of the NBA draft in June by the Los Angeles Lakers and General Manager, Magic Johnson. Now you must let your son live his own life. Second-guessing the Lakers and their coaching staff by an interfering parent is the simplest way to get your son cut, traded or pushed out of the league or physically or mentally wounded.

Any parent’s constant yapping is, at first a distraction, then an annoyance and finally, your son is out the door. You should never be verbally writing checks your kids will then have to try and cash and cover if they even ever can. Mr. Ball Sr. is as good as putting a giant bulls-eye on his son’s chest. This is unnecessarily and embarrassing. It is quite clear the father is trying to live vicariously through the sons.

Son #2 earned a full scholarship to UCLA, but shoplifted sun glasses while visiting China. After his release, his father more or less said, it was no big deal. The rest of us realize the lad’s father missed a teaching moment about how to behave in a foreign nation while representing UCLA, our nation and every American. Punishment for theft in some countries like China and many Middle- Eastern nations includes severing hands and stiff prison sentences. It’s awfully hard to play ball left-handed and impossible if you are sitting in a foreign jail, charged with stealing. Sending the message that stealing is “no big deal” to your sons, the nation and the world illustrates the real problem, the dad.

Now you have withdrawn son #2 from UCLA because you feel the punishment is too strong and you object to his suspension, neither of which is correct or strong enough considering your son’s actions. Everyone knows that stealing anywhere is a big deal and is just plain WRONG. Son #2 is now back with you and son # 3, whom you withdrew from high school to home school.
What happens when these kids have to interact and co-exist in the real world after their fleeting basketball careers? Their basketball careers will end by their getting cut or retiring. What have you prepared them for beyond basketball? What social interaction skills, life rules and social mores could they have benefited from, instead of your all-and-only-basketball approach?

All of your sons can play ball later in life. What they can’t make up are the things they are missing now: high school and college’s experiences, a natural evolution of educational growth and maturity. By now signing with an agent for both sons #2 and #3 so they can try to play overseas, you have effectively eliminated any of their college basketball chances.
Why don’t you concentrate on your “Big Baller” brand by yourself and allow your children the right to live their own lives, taking pride in whatever accomplishments, they achieve?
Overbearing, mindless smack-talking may build internet brands among the digital troll-dum, but in the real world, respect and hard work are still the cornerstones on which to build success. Forcing your kids to take potential “one and done” shortcuts short-changes them of their High School and College growth experiences in the class room and on campus. You had your college experience sitting the bench. Now be a man.

Be the proud Papa who doesn’t blame referees and coaches for his sons’ plays or missed plays. Be the proud Papa of these gifted sons who are obviously better on the court than you were. Be grateful. Try teaching them instead to respect the laws, the refs, their coaches, the game, and our shared history.

And please stop saying that you could have ever beaten Michael Jordan in a one-on-one game. If you could have, you would have. It only makes you look more pitiful. Don’t be the “Trump dad” who ruins basketball and life for his sons the way this President has taken America backwards for many of us.

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Then again, by sending him the red, white and blue pairs of your 3B sneakers you may have found the perfect spokes-model for your product. But be advised: he will probably demand an (unearned) cut and a “thank you” for the “get-out-of-China-jail-free-card.”

Sean C. Bowers is a local progressive youth development coach, author and poet, who has written for the New Journal and Guide the last eighteen years. His recent book of over 120 NJ&G articles detailing the issues is available at and he does do large scale solutions presentations.

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