LaVar Ball should just shut up, right now.
Already dubbed “Worst Sport Parent Ever” by none other than USA Today Sports, the father of L.A. Lakers’ Lonzo is doing his son no favors by opening his mouth — when no one wants him to.
Lonzo has a had a bit of a tough time adjusting to the NBA in his first season — which is pretty normal — but LaVar likes to think he knows how to get his kid out of it and why he has performed the way he has.
“They’re soft. They don’t know how to coach my son. I know how to coach him,” Ball said about the Lakers and coach Luke Walton after a recent loss to Phoenix. “I tell him to go get the victory. Stop messing around.”
The head of Big Baller brand, LaVar had even more negative things to say, which no doubt rankled the ears of Lakers brass, players and especially Lonzo — who no doubt takes a lot trash talk from opponents about his Dad.
LaVar Ball is the definition of an over-involved, loudmouth sports parent. There have been many others, who through brutal training regimens, verbal abuse and even neglect tainted their famous children’s sports careers.
Here are 15 of the most controversial sports parents, with parent and child/children identified in that order.
15. Karl Malone – Demetress Bell
Karl Malone had a Hall of Fame basketball career and enjoyed the all the perks that go with it. Too bad he was a Hall of Shame Dad who fathered three children that he was forced to go to court over paternity suits and chafed a paying support. Two were twins who he has publicly acknowledged were his (in addition to four children with his wife Kay), but one, former NFLer Demetress Bell has been shunned. It was alleged that when Malone was just 20 and in university, that he impregnated a 13-year-old girl in his hometown of Summerfield, Louisiana. After the mother went public with allegations that Malone was the father, a paternity test revealed with 99 percent certainty that Malone or one of his brother’s was the father. The famous baller later reached an out of court settlement with the family, but has only on one occasion spoken to Demetress, who played four years with the Buffalo Bills. He basically told his progeny that it was too late for them to have a father-son relationship. What an ass.
14. Marc O’Hair – Sean O’Hair
Marc O’Hair wanted for his son what so many do, but ultimately fail to, and that is turn his son into a professional. The elder O’Hair yanked his budding golf star son Sean — now a PGA Tour pro — out of high school at age 17 so that he could push him to pursue a pro career. This meant that he and Sean would criss-cross the U.S. and North America attending Monday qualifiers on the second tier Nationwide Tour for four years. In that time, Sean won a paltry $5,000. This, of course, caused a lot of friction in their relationship, with Marc berating his son on numerous occasions and even slapping his son in the face so hard his nose bled. It is said that Marc O’Hair sunk $2 million of his own money into his son’s career, but for that some of his “instruction” allegedly included Sean running a mile for every stroke he was over par during practice rounds. In 2002, Sean became estranged from his Dad and shortly thereafter gained his PGA Tour card without his Dad’s guidance.
13. Larry Fitzgerald Sr. – Larry Fitzgerald Jr.
The relationship between Larry Sr., a sports journalist, and his famous wide receiver son, Larry Jr., has for most purposes been a cordial one since young Larry first started catching passes en route to the NFL. The elder Fitzgerald has been a reporter for various outlets in Minnesota (where his son was born) and in the process, once became the first father to cover a son playing in a Super Bowl (XLIII). His son’s team lost the big game to Pittsburgh at Raymond James Stadium in February 2009 and most believe the coverage wasn’t biased. However, Larry Sr., could only remain objective for so long and during a particularly putrid Arizona Cardinals’ season in 2012 (they lost nine in a row at one stretch and finished 5-11), he turned into meddling, over-bearing Dad with this Tweet. “Definition of team quitting? 9 losses n a row. 9th loss 58-0! Injuries handling of offense worst NFL. Adrian Wilson & Darnell Dockett situations!” he tweeted. “…This is the NFL. Humbling embarrassing frustrating angering disappointing painful. What happens when u quit!”
12. William Sanders – Barry Sanders
The Sanders family dynamic, where father and son were concerned, was contrarian until the day that father William died in 2011. It all stemmed from the fact that future Hall of Famer and Heisman Trophy winner Barry played at Oklahoma State before his illustrious NFL career, while his Dad remained a steadfast supporter of the rival Oklahoma Sooners. The two otherwise did get along, with Barry often citing his father’s positive influence in his life inside and outside of football. However, William Sanders loyalties also ran to who he thought was the best ever running back, which in his opinion wasn’t his son. William was Barry’s presenter at his HoF ceremony in 2004 and actually said this: “Hello to the greatest running back that ever lived, the No. 1 running back that ever lived. He’s not with us today, I think he’s with his family in Los Angeles — Mr. Jim Brown. So, I want to say hello to him. He wrapped it all up by further uttering, “I want to introduce you to the third best running back that ever lived, Barry Sanders.” Yikes.
11. Lynn And Rick Raisman – Aly Raisman
Aly Raisman was the U.S. Gymnastics team’s most decorated member at the 2012 Olympics in London (and would later be a Gold medalist at the 2016 games at Rio). Thus, it wasn’t a stretch to say that her parents, Lynn and Rick Raisman, were justifiably proud of their daughter. They got Aly started in gymnastics at age two and probably spent countless hours driving her to practice and many weekends at meets before she hit the big time with the national team. About all they could be accused of here, and rightly so, was what looked like too-cutesy and virtually identical choreographed reactions to Aly’s routines at both Olympics (since they probably knew where the cameras were placed too). Not so much the worst sports parents ever, just attention hogs.
10. Jim Pierce – Mary Pierce
For most of his daughter’ Mary’s fairly illustrious career on the WTA Tour, Jim Pierce was the classic over-involved boorish parent bent on the verbal destruction of her opponents and financial destruction of Mary later. In fact, in 1993, Jim Pierce, who often verbally abused Mary’s opponents, was banned from the WTA Tour for five years after he punched another spectator at the French Open (which Mary won once in 2000). But, not only did Jim have a penchant for yelling at other tennis players and getting physical with fellow fans, but he also physically abused Mary behind the scenes. So much so that Mary sought a restraining order and protection from a bodyguard to maintain a buffer between her and her Dad. Jim Pierce, after being estranged from his famous daughter, also sued her for one quarter of her earnings, both at that present time and in the future. It was settled out of court and for that, Jim Pierce gets slimebag tennis parent of the century.
9. Philander Rodman Jr. – Dennis Rodman
Under the absentee parent banner we have Philander Rodman Jr., father of “The Worm” himself, Dennis. Philander Rodman, until he left his family high and dry, was an upstanding citizen and former U.S. Air Force enlisted member who served in the Vietnam War. Philander, who now lives in the Philippines and runs a restaurant, has claimed that he has had 29 children with 16 different women. Rodman, who hadn’t seen him in over 30 years, reunited with the old man in 2012 while he was on a retirement basketball tour in southeast Asia. However, prior to reconnecting with his Dad, Rodman described his lack of a relationship with his Dad in his book, “Bad As I Wanna Be”: “I haven’t seen my father in more than 30 years, so what’s there to miss … I just look at it like this: Some man brought me into this world. That doesn’t mean I have a father.” It seems, though, that the absentee father issues were passed down to Dennis, who has had his own issues with child support and payments.
8. Andrea McDonald – Alex Collins
Sometimes parents, thinking they are doing the right thing by their kids, go just a little bit too far. Current Baltimore Ravens running back Alex Collins was a mult-sport high school phenom in the Fort Lauderdale, FLA area and as such became a highly sought after recruit for his football exploits. The youngster, acting in his own interests, committed to playing at the University of Arkansas in February of 2013. However, his mother, Andrea McDonald, wanted her progeny to stay close to home and play for the Miami Hurricanes. On signing day, Collins’s mother provided some momentary drama, when she refused to co-sign the Letter of Intent for Alex (who needed it because he was under 21), running away with the document instead and hiring a lawyer to try and stall proceedings. However, Arkansas coach Bret Bielema did an end around on Collins’ over-protective mother the next day, faxing another LOI to Collins, whose Dad signed it. Problem solved.
7. Peter Graf – Steffi Graf
Like any father with a penchant for a particular sport, Peter Graf introduced a three-year-old Steffi to tennis at the age of three. By age four the future WTA superstar was practicing on a court and was in her first tournament at age five. Pops was doubtless a proud man, especially when his daughter started her professional career at the tender age of 13, which began with a loss to American Tracy Austin in 1982. Peter Graf stage managed it all, and was a pervasive and sometimes annoying presence in personal and professional life. In the 90s, German authorities then charged Peter, who was also Steffi’s financial manager, with tax evasion. They had originally targeted Steffi, too, on the same charges, but they were later dismissed as the case went to court, ending in Peter’s incarceration for just over two years. They were estranged for a while because of this development, but reconciled long before Peter’s death in 2013.
6. Rosalio Pacquiao – Manny Pacquiao
In the annals of bad parenting, there was a rumor that star boxer Manny Pacquiao became estranged from his father Rosalio after the old man killed, cooked and ate the family dog in front of him. Rosalio, who had left Manny’s mother for another woman when Manny was a teenager, denies ever doing that but the two did not speak to each other for two decades after he bolted his marriage. Manny ended up living in extreme poverty for some time, living in a one-room shack in an area controlled by Muslim rebels, before boxing afforded him a shot at untold riches. The world famous boxer turned Philippines politician cites his father’s flight from the family as the biggest reason the two didn’t talk for 20 years. The feud ended in 2009 when Rosalio attended one of Manny’s professional fights.
5. Cecil Fielder – Prince Fielder
In professional terms, the father-son combo of former major leaguers Cecil and Prince Fielder was destined to be more than just a familial one. While Cecil, a two-time AL home run champ, was in the midst of a 13-season career, young Prince would tag along. When Cecil was with Detroit in the early 90s, a 12-year-old Prince once hit a homer into the upper deck of Tiger Stadium. Later, when Prince turned professional, Cecil got involved and helped negotiate his first MLB contract. However, there was a dispute whether Cecil should have received a typical agent’s fee for negotiating the contract, which he demanded. Thereafter, he and Prince were not on speaking terms and didn’t reconcile until 2012, when Prince was an established big league star.
4. Richard Williams – Serena And Venus Williams
In tennis terms, Venus and Serena Williams are super-duper stars. Thanks, in no small part, to Dad and former coach Richard. When his daughters were very young, Richard Williams had decided the two would be tennis professionals and he even penned a 78-page plan to get them there. He started them out around age four with lesson on public courts and later on, when the two future mega-stars were in a tennis academy, he pulled them out to coach them himself and kept them from youth tennis circuit tournaments. Thus began a cycle of over-involvement from a man many thought was just a bit off his rocker, dotted with his frequent angry outbursts and his tendency to make race an issue. One particular outburst, which probably caused his daughters great consternation, happened after Serena won the US Open title in 1999. Richard shouted “Straight Outta Compton” (a reference to where the girls used to practice and a NWA song) and jumped over the NBC Broadcasting Booth and performing a triumphant dance, catching Chris Evert by surprise. Crazy like a fox, he is.
3. Earl Woods – Tiger Woods
The late Earl Woods knew early that his soon-to-be-uber-famous son was something special. Not that he didn’t have a hand in young Tiger taking up golf, as he first put a club in the youngster’s hands when he was still a toddler. A former U.S. infantry officer who did two tours in Vietnam, Earl met his second wife, Kultida, in Thailand and later they had a son, Eldrick (Tiger) in 1975. Earl took up golf later in life and became good enough to start teaching his son a few things. Over the years, Earl pushed hard on Tiger, with some saying he was over-the-top. One thing Earl was rumored to have implemented into Tiger’s practice rounds was a rule of complete silence. That is, Tiger couldn’t talk while golfing. Then, Earl would test his silence by dropping his clubs in Tiger’s backswing (a big no-no) or walking his line of sight while he putted (another big faux pas). Tiger would say later of the strange practice and how tough it was not to speak by saying “if looks could kill, my pop wouldn’t have made it through my formative years.”
2. Marv Marinovich – Todd Marinovich
The Marv and Todd Maranovich story is a cautionary tale for all parents who think their kid is the “next big thing” and that they can have a major influence on the outcome of their sports careers. Marv Marinovich is the poster boy for bad parenting, having groomed his son Todd for a life in football with a training regimen that would have made Soviet era sports coaches cry with pride. Marv dictated every aspect of young Todd’s life from diet to workouts and daily routines, so that the kid could be the “perfect quarterback.” The strict upbringing led many to call Todd “Robo QB” and would later lead him to rebel against a young life filled almost entirely with football. As foretold from a brilliant high school career in California, Todd would star at USC and later get drafted 24th overall by the Raiders, but injuries and addiction to heroin derailed his career, and fast. He has had many problems with drugs and the law since.
1. LaVar Ball – Lonzo, LiAngelo And LaMelo Ball
Lately, the focus on Lonzo Ball’s budding NBA career has been shifted to his Dad LaVar’s open Twitter feud with none other than President Donald Trump. The sports pages are alight with LaVar openly criticizing the Lakers and coach Luke Walton about how his son’s first foray into the league hasn’t gone as smooth as he imagined. Lately, he has also engaged in a heated war of words with POTUS stemming from a shoplifting incident in China involving another son, LiAngelo, who was one of three UCLA players arrested for a five-finger discount and later released (supposedly at the behest of Trump). The two bombastic individuals have traded barbs after LaVar questioned the president’s supposed involvement in securing his son’s safe passage out of the Chinese penal system. The president was so incensed he called LaVar (on Twitter) a “poor man’s version of Don King” and an “ungrateful fool.” Whatever the case, LaVar Ball is creeping into over-the-top bad sports parent category with his frequent — and probably unwelcome — public outbursts concerning his sons’ basketball careers.