Lonzo Ball and LaVar Ball: Can their new reality show keep up with the Kardashians? The new Facebook series is produced by the same creative team

Season 1, Episodes 1 & 2 | “Bittersweet Victory” + “Forging a Path” | Aug. 31

A couple of weeks ago, I sat in an Uber with my boy when Gucci Mane and Drake’s hit “Both” came on the radio. See the power of the mind is not a joke, the Canadian kingpin rapped in one of the 2016 song’s more recognizable lyrics. Man, I said that I would do it and I did. “I’m surprised LaVar Ball hasn’t taken that line,” my homey said with a laugh, “and ran with it.” Call the man a lot of things, but make sure “right” is one of them. Love LaVar, hate him or be annoyed by him — Father Ball called his shot.

It’s tough to remember the first time the name “LaVar Ball” made ripples in my corner of the universe. It seems he’s always been in the public lexicon despite the fact that he’s still a relatively new name in pop culture — and one that even has Jay-Z buying into what he’s cooking. Ball, the person, isn’t foreign to anyone familiar with the AAU circuit. He’s an overly involved dad invested in his kids’ professional athletic future. Go to any AAU game in the country and there’s a LaVar Ball — or 12 of them. The only difference is LaVar’s sons are all Division I-bound — and, in his eldest son’s case, the most recent No. 2 overall draft pick by the Los Angeles Lakers. Lonzo Ball is already an insanely hyped lottery pick in the NBA’s most historically glamorous franchise.

Ball’s antics — loving, comical, arrogant and problematic — have all led to the reality series (properly titled) Ball In The Family. The 10-episode trek, airing on Facebook Watch, chronicles the life of basketball’s newest first family. There’s Lonzo and his younger brothers, LiAngelo (who recently played in a pickup game with LeBron James) and LaMelo (who recently played in the most publicized amateur contest of the summer versus phenom Zion Williamson and became the youngest player ever with his own signature shoe).

There is also their mother, Tina; Lonzo’s high school sweetheart, Denise; and, of course, the Dre Johnson of basketball himself, LaVar. Broadcasting the show on Facebook, the world’s most popular social media platform with nearly 2 billion monthly users, may just ensure that the Ball family revolution is digitized.

And if there’s any humanizing moment for LaVar, it’s his “private” moments with his wife.

If the first two episodes seem to resemble another high-profile, polarizing family, you’re not tripping. Bunim/Murray Productions, the minds behind Keeping Up with the Kardashians, have their hands on Ball. The series kicks off by taking a look into life leading up to Lonzo’s big day in June. The Ball brothers are comically familiar in terms of personality types. Lonzo’s the oldest and most chill. LiAngelo is the GQ model of the clique. And Melo’s the goofy younger brother (with Nick Young shot selection) who is treated as such.

There’s a designed system at play, and one that’s so ingrained in not only LaVar but the entire family too — so much so that LiAngelo moves into Lonzo’s UCLA apartment intending to focus on school and basketball, not parties. All of the sons follow the same path that Lonzo broke the barrier for, and which was mapped out, on the show as apparently in real life, by sports’ most outspoken patriarch. There are no new or explosive revelations in the first two episodes. No plot twists. The family is who we thought they were: laser-focused on the success of dad and sons, which is either a huge selling point or a huge deterrent depending on what side of the aisle one sits on.

On an “unscripted” date night with Lonzo and his girlfriend, the future of their relationship is the topic of conversation. This leads the No. 2 pick to joke that he can’t see how their relationship will change now that he’s in the NBA — except for when he travels to Miami on the Los Angeles Lakers’ annual East Coast road swing.

But let’s do the math here, though. Lonzo is a 19-year-old, living in Los Angeles, who gets lit to the Migos and Future. He’s the face of the Lakers and a household name before he’s even scored his first official bucket in the league. And the All-Star Game is in L.A. in 2018, too? If he’s half as good as most expect him to be, then Jesus be a faithful commitment between these two young and in-love souls.

The most revealing part of the 18-minute episodes centers on a part of the Ball family we knew little about: LaVar’s wife, and the boys’ mother, Tina. Mrs. Ball suffered a stroke in late February, and in the first two episodes she is attempting to learn how to walk again. She’s learning how to talk again. And if there’s any humanizing moment for LaVar, it’s his “private” moments with his wife. LaVar successfully rejects the idea of a speech pathologist helping his wife, insisting instead that he be the one to be there with “his girl” each step of the process. The idea seems insane but status quo for a man whose stubbornness is the reason he landed this documentary. In a particularly memorable scene, he teaches his wife how to say “I love you” again. Lonzo, LiAngelo (called “Gelo” in the show) and LaMelo also express love and adoration for their mother. They’re insanely attached to her, and her stroke did scare them. In the Balls’ rise to fame, she has often been kept out of the news cycles, for obvious medical reasons. Now appears to be her time to step into the spotlight.

The characters basically hold a middle finger up to pro basketball norms as it relates to taking control of one’s own destiny.

LaVar is, of course, the series’ main attraction so far. At least through the first two episodes — 10 in total, with the next seven released in weekly installments — he’s more than enough to hold your attention. The characters basically hold a middle finger up to pro basketball norms as they relate to taking control of one’s own destiny. Pass or fail, if the Balls actually do ball out, it’ll be because they built and walked on their own path.

There is one surprise, though. Lonzo orders his steak medium well. I threw up a little bit in my mouth. The best steaks are medium rare or medium. Any other temperature is for the people who confuse “your” and “you’re” in texts and justify it by saying it doesn’t matter because it’s a private conversation. It does matter! And it absolutely matters that Lonzo Ball is purposely cheating himself out of the delicacy that is steak by essentially ordering a piece of leather for his entrée. I’m really starting to second-guess my hot take prediction for the season of him finishing with at least 22 10-assist games. It’s like I don’t even know who this kid is anymore.

New Air Jordan 32s channel the swag of Michael Jordan’s Air Jordan 2s The new sneakers draw inspiration from shoes made more than 30 years ago

Nike senior designer Tate Kuerbis must’ve packed his bags, whipped out his passport and hopped into a DeLorean while crafting his latest Jordan Brand creation.

The new Air Jordan XXXIIs, which debuted on Tuesday in Turin, Italy, are the second coming of the legendary Italian-manufactured Air Jordans IIs that dropped more than 30 years ago during Michael Jordan’s third season in the NBA. Both pairs of shoes feature a similar structure, collar wings first seen in Jordan’s signature line on the IIs, and the iconic “Wings” logo on the tongue.

“Our goal with the AJ XXXII was to combine the essence of the AJ II with today’s best innovation to create a distinct design language both on and off the court,” said David Creech, Jordan Brand’s vice president of Design. That new technology is incorporated into the Kuerbis-designed XXXIIs through a “first-of-its-kind Flyknit upper,” formed by high-tenacity yarn. What does that actually mean? In layman’s terms, the XXXIIs boast components that make them the most flexible Air Jordans in history.

That means we should expect nothing less than for Jordan Brand athletes Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler and Carmelo Anthony to get busy on the court in the XXXIIs during the upcoming 2017-18 season. The question is, can they channel the same magic that His Airness delivered to the IIs, which he played in during the 1986-87 season.

Here are the top three performances and moments that Michael Jordan had in the Air Jordan IIs — the sneakers that served as inspiration for the latest release on his signature Air Jordan line.


1987 NBA SLAM Dunk Contest

Remember when Jordan soared through the air in his first career NBA Slam Dunk Contest in 1985, with his gold chains swinging and Air Jordan Is on his feet? There was also 1988, when he threw down a dunk from the free throw line while rocking his Air Jordan IIIs. But never forget: Jordan first won the dunk contest in 1987, while rocking the Air Jordan IIs. On his final dunk of the night, Jordan connected on an acrobatic, leaning windmill from the left side of the hoop that earned him 50 points and the win over Jerome Kersey of the Portland Trail Blazers. A day later, Jordan wore the IIs in the 1987 NBA All-Star Game.

Not One, but TWO 61-point PERFORMANCes

Michael Jordan lays the ball up past Portland Trailblazers guard Clyde Drexler at Memorial Coliseum in 1987.

USA TODAY Sports

Jordan had the best scoring year of his life during the 1986-87 season, which he finished with a career-high average of 37.1 points a game and his first league scoring title. Two performances from that season especially stick out. First, on March 4, 1987, against the Detroit Pistons, Jordan scored 61 points, including 26 points in the fourth quarter that he capped off by draining a nearly impossible jumper to send the game into overtime. A month later, on April 16, 1987, Jordan put up 61 points again — while scoring 23 straight at one point in the game. The Bulls lost, but for Jordan, it was a record-setting night. He became the second player in NBA history, along with Wilt Chamberlain, to score 3,000 points in a season and the first player since Chamberlain to score 50 or more points in three consecutive games. Jordan was unstoppable in the IIs in both 61-point performances.

UNC vs. UCLA Alumni Game

Fun fact: The first player exclusives (PEs) Jordan ever received from Nike were a pair of Air Jordan IIs. After the 1986-87 NBA season, Jordan suited up for Dean Smith and his alma mater UNC in a charity alumni game against UCLA at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles. Jordan took the court in a pair of Carolina blue-accented IIs that were specially designed for him. Earlier this year, Jordan Brand paid tribute to the classic alumni game, and His Airness’ first pair of PEs, by releasing the same IIs that Jordan wore 30 years ago.

The “Rosso Corsa” Air Jordan XXXIIs are scheduled to be released on Sept. 23 for the retail price of $185. The “Bred” Air Jordan XXXIIs, in both mid ($185) and low ($165) versions, will be released on Oct. 18.

What if it wasn’t all a Dream (Team)? Five 1992 Olympic what-if scenarios — 25 years later Dominique Wilkins’ injury, Jordan sticking to his word and Shaq over Laettner. What if?

Want to feel nostalgic? Great. Better yet, want to feel old? Twenty-five years ago today, the 1992 U.S. men’s basketball team won Olympic gold. Canonized as “The Dream Team,” the squad curb-stomped an entire world of competition, and its international impact is eternal.

The Dream Team opened the NBA’s door into China — and the world’s love affair with the game of basketball. Their Olympic tuneups weren’t as much games as they were red carpet ceremonies as they laughed, galloped and, in Toni Kukoc’s case, smothered the life out of opponents, beating them by 44.3 points per game — second only to the 53.2-point margin of the 1956 squad anchored by Bill Russell. The Dream Team’s song is one to which the entire world knows the lyrics — thanks to the documentaries, features and books in the quarter-century since their summer excursion. But even a crew with some of the game’s most iconic names — Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird — isn’t immune to the “what if” game. It makes for a psychedelic voyage into a parallel universe.

What if Team USA had taken gold in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea?

This is, by far, the most important question involving The Dream Team. America winning bronze in the ’88 Games was a watershed moment. The Soviet Union defeated the United States 82-76 in the semifinals (there’s a Russia/America-beating-us-at-our-own-game joke that will not be told right now). Up until 1988, only collegiate players were allowed in Olympic play. That talk soon shifted. “Personally, I would like more of a chance to compete,” Team USA and then-Georgetown head coach John Thompson said. “I’m also an advocate of professionals playing in the Olympics.”

Not everyone was for the change. Bill Wall, executive director of the United States Amateur Basketball Association, touched on philosophical issues: “Do you want to watch the best players beat everyone else?” It turns out the answer was a resounding yes. In Munich, on April 7, 1989, FIBA voted 56-13 to allow pro players to participate.

Many, like Boris Stankovic, FIBA’s secretary general, saw it as Olympic basketball’s “triumphant entry into the 21st century.” Stankovic was a chief proponent of allowing NBA players access, as they were the only professionals barred worldwide. One of its most vocal critics, however, turned out to be the United States Amateur Basketball Association, which took the stance that pro players’ involvement eliminated its opportunity to participate.

So, did America’s bronze medal showing in the ’88 Games lead directly to the introduction of NBA players? Perhaps not 100 percent, but it undeniably aided a process already in motion. Put it this way: If anything defines Big Sean’s Last night I took an L, but tonight I bounce back, it’s Team USA basketball 1988-92. It’s also fair to say that if America had won gold in 1988, the push for NBA stars may never have happened.

NBA players in the Olympics are the norm these days, but in the immediate aftermath of the decision, the desire to play was slightly better than 50-50. Superstars such as Isiah Thomas, Magic Johnson and Karl Malone didn’t hide their excitement. “[I’d] go in a heartbeat and pay my own ticket,” Malone said. But a 1989 poll revealed only 58 percent of NBA players would play if afforded the opportunity. The biggest one to say no? Jordan. Which brings us to the next point …

What if Michael Jordan had stuck to his word and not played in the 1992 Olympics?

Let’s get the elephant out of the room. The Isiah Thomas/Jordan factor was a real issue — a beef with origins in the 1985 All-Star Game, known in hoops circles as the “freeze-out game.” How do we know Jordan didn’t want anything to do with Thomas as a teammate? He said it himself. “That was one of the stipulations put to me [on the team] — that Isiah wasn’t part of the team,” he said in a 2012 Dream Team documentary. The Thomas exclusion remains a thrilling subplot of ’90s basketball because of how the selection committee did whatever it had to do to get Jordan while sacrificing Thomas.

The Detroit Pistons’ floor general wasn’t one of the first 10 players selected. The Olympic selection committee began choosing players shortly after the 1991 playoffs ended. It was in those same playoffs that the Pistons, swept by Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference finals, infamously walked off the court before time expired in Game 4. Thomas was seen as the linchpin in one of the most infamous examples of pettiness in sports history. But even with Thomas on the outside looking in, Jordan still wasn’t a lock. Peep the timeline:

April 1989 Jordan says he’s not interested in playing in the Olympics again (he won gold in 1984). The thought of giving up another summer didn’t appeal to him.

May 1991 In one of the more revealing yet often forgotten interviews of his career, the ’91 MVP once again states his hesitation to Pat Riley. The season was long enough, and adding the Olympics would only shorten recovery time. But he doesn’t slam the casket shut either. “The only reason that I would wanna go is,” he says, only semi-joking, “if we feel that we certainly can’t win with the team we put out there.”

“Do you want to watch the best players beat everyone else?” It turns out the answer was a resounding yes.

July 30, 1991 — Agent David Falk denies that both of his clients, Jordan and Patrick Ewing, are undecided about what to do the next summer.

Aug. 1, 1991 — Playing in his first competitive golf tournament at the Western Amateur in Benton Harbor, Michigan, Jordan seemingly deadens any hope of Olympic dreams. “There are a lot of professionals who want to play and, being that there are a lot of professionals that haven’t played — and I’ve played — I don’t mind giving the other guys an opportunity,” he says. “Right now it’s a closed door for me.” For the golf aficionados wondering, he shot an 85 that day.

Aug. 10, 1991 — “I’m working on him,” Magic Johnson says. “I even told him I’d give him a million dollars if he’d do it. But so far he hasn’t changed his mind.”

Aug. 25, 1991 — Few remember the attacks on Jordan’s patriotism because of his reluctance to play in the Olympics. Three weeks after his statement about sitting out, Jordan reconsiders, promising to make the decision in a few days but saying it would be his and his alone. “Not one forced on me by what somebody else says or wants,” he said.

Sept. 4, 1991 — Thomas says if he’s not invited to the ’92 Games later that month he will not blame Jordan. “While I cannot speak for Michael,” Thomas says, “I can say that such a feud does not exist.”

Sept. 24, 1991 — The selection committee releases the names of 10 players invited to form the 1992 Olympic men’s basketball team: Charles Barkley, Larry Bird, Ewing, Johnson, Malone, Chris Mullin, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson, John Stockton and, yes, Jordan. Jack McCloskey resigned from the selection committee over Thomas’ snub, calling the omission “ridiculous.” As for Jordan’s response? “If I had anything to do with the selection, I would’ve selected my mother and my sister. I didn’t have anything to do with it.” Riiiight.

March 18, 1992 — By now, Jordan is openly stating he wants to play. But not until the money ceases looking funny. Jordan’s camp was unhappy about marketing rights — in particular, the official Olympic T-shirt that bore semblances of all team members. He had no issue with USA Basketball, a nonprofit organization, making money. He did, however, have beef with the NBA making coin. It was a subtle but undeniable example of what The New York Times at the time called a “deteriorating relationship with the NBA over the issue.” Jordan was adamant that money wasn’t the motivation for holding out. However, “This is a business,” he says. “This is what happens when you let professional players in.”

March 20, 1992 — Turns out that headache lasts only 48 hours. Jordan’s agent, David Falk, confirms that a compromise will be reached, and Jordan will be in Barcelona, Spain, that summer. USA Basketball had secured the face it so desperately coveted. Without Jordan, Team USA likely still wins gold. But it begs the question, is the NBA the global international force it is now if Jordan stayed stateside in the summer of 1992?

What if Shaquille O’Neal had been chosen over Christian Laettner as the Dream Team’s college player?

Love him or hate him — and many did both — Laettner’s star power was undeniable heading into the Summer Games. His resume at Duke was drunk with achievement: back-to-back national championships in ’91 and ’92, a three-time All-American, Final Four MVP and National Player of the Year in ’92. Combine all that with one of the most iconic plays in college basketball history, and Laettner’s stock was sky-high. Surrounded by elite talent that trumped his, it’s beyond understandable why he barely got much tick in the ’92 Games. That said, if you ever want to win a bar bet, ask who averaged the fewest points on the Dream Team. Chances are most will say Laettner (4.8), who went on to have a solid NBA career, averaging 12.8 points and 6.7 rebounds over 13 seasons. The correct answer, though, is Stockton (2.8), as the future Hall of Famer missed the first four games with a broken leg.

“I’m working on him,” Magic Johnson said. “I even told him I’d give him a million dollars if he’d do it.”

But let’s keep it a buck. This is Shaq we’re talking about. In 1992, the feeling was post-up centers would have difficulties in the trapezoid-shaped lane of the international game. Hindsight is 20/20, but it’s violent to envision what a 20-year-old O’Neal would have done to the likes of Angola or Germany. Seriously, picture this: Johnson leading the break, with Jordan and Pippen on the wings and a young, nimble 20-year-old O’Neal as the trailer:

It’s fun to imagine young O’Neal running fast breaks in Barcelona, because we already know how destructively poetic young O’Neal was running fast breaks in Orlando with Penny Hardaway. O’Neal would later receive his own gold medal at the ’96 Olympics in Atlanta, but the four-time NBA champion didn’t like his ’92 omission. “I was pissed off. I was jealous,” O’Neal said in 2012. “But then I had to come to the realization that I was a more explosive, more powerful player. Laettner was a little bit more fundamentally sound than I was.”

What if Dominique Wilkins never ruptured his Achilles?

The Original ATLien was one of the more entertaining and beloved players in the ’80s and into the ’90s. His 47 points in Game 7 in Boston Garden vs. Larry Bird and the Celtics in 1988 remains one of the all-time great playoff performances (despite being in a loss). He won two dunk contests, in 1985 and 1990. Even Jordan admits Wilkins was robbed in 1988 when he lost in Chicago. “I probably would’ve given it to [Dominique],” Jordan said years later. “But being that it was on my turf, it wasn’t meant to be.”

Wilkins is also one of five non-centers in NBA history to average at least 26 points for a decade — the other four being Jerry West, Jordan, Allen Iverson and LeBron James. In layman’s terms, Wilkins was that deal. The issue with Wilkins’ legacy, however, is what plagues Chris Paul today — his teams never advanced past the second round. But by the start of 1992, there seemed to be momentum building for Wilkins to become the 11th professional player to be added to the Dream Team. Unfortunately, Wilkins ruptured his Achilles tendon against the Philadelphia 76ers in January 1992, ending his season and whatever shot he had at making the Olympic squad. At the time of his injury, he was putting up 28.1 points per night.

How the story played out: Portland’s Clyde Drexler was announced as the final NBA player to make the squad in May 1992. Wilkins eventually played on the second iteration of the Dream Team two years later, a dominant squad in its own right. But we’re all left to wonder how differently Wilkins’ Hall of Fame career might have been remembered. What an acrobatic light show the fast break of Johnson, Jordan and “The Human Highlight Reel” would’ve produced in Barcelona! It’s the second time we missed out on a Magic and Dominique tag team — the Los Angeles Lakers had the chance to select Wilkins No. 1 overall in the 1982 draft, opting instead for James Worthy (a selection that worked out extremely well for the Lakers in the ’80s).

What if Magic Johnson had been unable to play?

For context, only 263 days had passed between Johnson’s announcement that he had HIV (Nov. 7, 1991) and Team USA’s first Olympic game (July 26, 1992). In the immediate aftermath of his announcement, America began to emotionally distance itself from Johnson. Advertisers and marketing agencies ceased using him in their campaigns. How sick was he? Would he wither away in front of our eyes? And should he even be allowed to play basketball? The debate became one of the most polarizing of its day.

“If Magic Johnson is prohibited from participating in the Olympics,” a New York Times response to the editor ran in February 1992, “then the accepted risk factor for all sports should be re-evaluated.”

“Americans have always regarded our Olympic athletes as role models for our boys and girls, which Magic is not,” another stated. “Let him use his energies and money setting up a trust fund of a few million dollars to pay the medical bills of the women he may have infected.”

On Feb. 3, 1992, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) ruled that athletes with HIV were eligible to participate. Later that same week, Johnson not only participated in the NBA All-Star Game in Orlando, Florida, but he also took home MVP honors with 25 points, nine assists and a spine-tingling 3-pointer that has since transcended sports. Johnson, of course, went on to become one of the faces of The Dream Team and a beloved executive, broadcaster and ambassador of the league.

But what if history were different, and the IOC had ruled differently? Not only would that have been tragically inhumane, but athletes with HIV being ruled ineligible means no Magic Johnson. No Magic Johnson means no Larry Bird and no Michael Jordan. No Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan means no Dream Team. One decision quite literally changed the world.

Daily Dose: 7/12/17 The MLB All-Star Game was a major success

In case you missed it, I filled in for Bomani Jones from Minneapolis on Tuesday. Of course, it was MLB All-Star Game day, so we talked quite a bit about the Midsummer Classic. Here’s the show: Hour 1, Hour 2, Hour 3.

Donald Trump Jr. thinks he’s slick. Once it became clear that he sat down with someone who claimed to be with the Kremlin, he decided to get out in front of things and drop the emails of correspondence himself. Meanwhile, the Russians are getting tired of constantly seeing themselves on American television. Junior went on Fox News last night to try to explain himself, and that didn’t exactly go very well. His basic defense was “I’m not very good at collusion, so my bad.” His father, the president, was pleased.

Everyone loses when the family feuds. Those were the words of Jay-Z on his most recent album, but it sometimes applies to black media. Take for example the recent case of Dr. Umar Johnson, who made an appearance on Roland Martin’s TV One show. I guess Martin felt like he needed to bring Johnson — who, by the way, I find extremely harmful and ridiculous — to task, but in the process he embarrassed everyone involved. Here’s a fact-check of all the wild claims that were made during this televised shouting match.

When I think of Halloween, I think of … Michael Jackson? Not quite, but I guess if you want to throw Thriller into that mix, then you’ve got pretty much everything you need. I feel like every Oct. 31, MTV or some other channel runs that video on a loop for the night, which makes complete sense. But outside of that? The King of Pop is not particularly ghoulish. However, CBS has created an animated special that will feature his music and a storyline involving his dance moves. This will probably be pretty popular either way.

The MLB All-Star Game was fantastic. The Home Run Derby was a huge hit. There were all sorts of new players in the game, and because it didn’t “count” for anything for the first time since 2003, players got to have fun. Fox also did a great job with the broadcast, allowing Alex Rodriguez to roam the infield between innings to talk to players, and at one point players were mic’d up talking to the broadcast booth while on the field. But the best moment came when Nelson Cruz straight up took a picture with umpire Joe West before an at-bat. So much fun.

Free Food

Coffee Break: You never want to hear the words “iceberg breaks off in Antarctica.” You also never want to hear that in the same sentence as “size of Delaware.” Adding on “maps need to be redrawn” to that means that something has likely gone very wrong. Something has definitely gone wrong.

Snack Time: Don’t ask me how this is possible, but somehow, the people trying to make a live-action version of Aladdin are having trouble finding actors to play the lead roles. Every. Single. Side eye. In. The. World.

Dessert: Sevyn Streeter knows how to party, folks. Take notes for your summer ragers.