Some basketball players can reach their potential almost no matter what.
LeBron James comes to mind.
A physical specimen like that, with the work ethic he possesses, could've gone to high school. Or skipped high school. Could've played in college. Or skipped college. Could've been coached by Hall of Famers. Or me. And he would've still almost certainly become King James because he's uniquely gifted and nearly impossible to mess up.
Same deal with Kevin Durant.
And, for LaMelo Ball's sake, I hope such is also true for LaMelo Ball. But I'm not certain it is. And that's why the most famous and controversial father in amateur basketball is risking something real by choosing to remove his youngest son from Chino Hills High.
"I'm not dealing with the coach over there [at Chino Hills High]," LaVar Ball told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne. "I'm not dealing with the administration over there. I don't want no distractions on Melo. So therefore I'm going to home school him and make him the best basketball player ever."
Feel free to laugh at LaVar saying he "don't want no distractions on Melo" after previously suggesting everybody who thinks his children could possibly be distracted by his antics is ridiculous. I know I did. But, more than anything, you should hope this works out for LaMelo. Because it'll be a shame if it doesn't.
LaMelo Ball is a talented basketball prospect.
He's not Lonzo.
But he's very good.
The 6-foot-3 guard and UCLA pledge is a consensus five-star recruit in the Class of 2019. That means he's a likely future McDonald's All-American and probable NBA player. Is he overhyped? Sure, I guess -- if only because that's what happens when you're LaVar's kid, Lonzo's brother and a YouTube star who shoots from 30 feet regularly. But the fact that he's overhyped doesn't mean he's not super talented. Don't ever forget that. He's good.
So I'm rooting for him.
I like him.
But I'm also well-aware that unconventional decisions by parents have screwed up can't-miss prospects before. Renardo Sidney comes to mind. He was a five-star recruit from Mississippi whose father moved him to California while he was in high school for reasons that were always sketchy. To say Sidney was never the same is an understatement. He put on a lot of weight. His most-famous college moment featured him punching a teammate on national television. I'm sure he's somewhere right now. But I don't know where. The last update to his Wikipedia page says he was drafted No. 1 overall in something called the California Basketball Association -- this from a prospect who was once in the same class as, and considered a peer of, John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.
Again, parents have screwed up prospects before.
That's the fear here.
But, it should be noted that, to date, basically every decision LaVar Ball has made as it relates to his sons has worked out. Lonzo Ball never transferred to a basketball factory, never played for a high-profile grassroots program and never officially visited any college besides UCLA. Regardless, he was awesome in one year for the Bruins and is now projected as the likely NBA Rookie of the Year.
Say what you want about LaVar.
But he hasn't messed anything up yet.
And yet I'm still not a fan, on the surface, of this decision because it doesn't seem to be the result of a father strictly doing what's best for his son. Understand, LaVar never said LaMelo doesn't like the new coach at Chino Hills High. Or the style of play. Or the principal. LaVar said LaVar doesn't like the new coach at Chino Hills High. Or the style of play. Or the principal. So this is totally and completely about LaVar. And I'm not sure that's a good thing.
As always, we'll see.
But here's a question: How many home-schooled high school students are in the NBA? Answer: Sacramento's Justin Jackson. And that's nearly it. So LaVar Ball is undeniably putting LaMelo Ball in a position that hasn't been a great path for basketball success. Perhaps the youngest Ball brother is so talented he'll overcome it. Personally, I hope so. Because it'll be a shame if he doesn't.