Cockiness vs Confidence; 3 life lessons you can learn from the LaVar Ball School of Success
by Amina Owens

LaVar Ball is a husband, former NCAA Division II college basketball star, and retired pro football player. Pretty decent athletic history, but none of these titles is what he’s known for. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, by now you’ve heard something of this boastful, larger than life personality having, basketball Dad to rising basketball stars Lonzo, LiAngelo, and LaMelo Ball. The man even once said Jordan wouldn’t have been able to stop him one-on-one. No, not Jordan Farmar (no disrespect to him) but the only Jordan that matters, “His Royal Airness” himself! Yea, cocky might be an understatement when it comes to LaVar Ball, but what can his antics teach us about success in our own lives?

Lesson One: Always dream BIG. There’s a saying that goes “If your dreams don’t scare you, you’re not dreaming big enough,” and cliché as it may be, it’s true. Ball sees himself as more than just Lonzo’s loud-mouthed daddy, he sees himself as a sports apparel mogul, declaring that his company, “Big Baller Brand” will one day rival the likes of giants like Nike and Adidas. This is exactly the confident mindset you should have in your respective endeavors, shoot for the stars!

Lesson 2: Market yourself accordingly, whatever that looks like in your chosen field. Like him or not, LaVar Ball’s name has been EVERYWHERE for the better part of the last 4-5 months or so, and that’s not easy to do. He does what he needs to do to make sure he stays relevant and visible, paving the way for him to fulfill his goals. In this age of social media and going viral, sometimes 15 minutes of fame is all you really need to start you off on the right path, and Ball is well into minute 47. Of course, exposure looks different depending on your field. If you’re a Student Affairs professional, it could mean putting on a phenomenal program that gains lots of attention within your university or generating buzz for the app you developed if coding is your lane. Whatever you do, confidently put yourself out there, and capitalize on your moment, but also be prepared to put in the hard work to sustain that momentum once you have it.

Finally, Lesson 3: Don’t shoot yourself in the foot, and if you do, for goodness sakes don’t take your loved ones down with you! For all his faults, LaVar Ball seems to have good intentions, especially for his sons, but sometimes his mouth and his cockiness tend to do more harm than good. Take into account his recent business decisions. He reportedly turned down  $10 million dollar shoe endorsement contracts on behalf of his son Lonzo, who’s was just drafted second overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2017 NBA draft. LaVar rejected Lonzo’s offers from all of the “Big Three” of sports apparel, Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour, demanding that they either offer more money or license his company Big Baller Brand. They all declined. Ball shortly thereafter released the “ ZO 2” signature sneaker under Big Baller Brand for a whopping $495 a pair, over $200 more than the average pair of Jordans! Yep, that Jordan again. Although he’s dreaming big, as he should, LaVar’s cockiness may have unintentionally harmed him and his son more than it helped them. In the pursuit of success, it’s important to weigh your options appropriately and think carefully about all possible outcomes. Now, could Big Baller Brand take off and come to legitimately compete with Nike? Sure. Could the ZO2’s outsell the Kobes and the Lebrons? Possibly. Could Lonzo enter the league and not do as well as projected, causing the brand and the shoe to take a hit? Unfortunately yes. While we don’t wish this on the Ball family, it seems like LaVar may not have thoroughly considered the latter scenario. It may have been smarter for him to be more flexible in his negotiations, possibly taking an endorsement deal, with provisions that allow further development of Big Baller Brand, for future editions of the ZO sneaker. Or maybe he could have signed a limited deal, allowing time to secure more capital, then distributing via Big Baller Brand once the family had more money to fall back on. At the very least he could have priced the shoe a bit more reasonably so that his target audience is more likely to be able to afford them. Hopefully, for him, his $10 million dollar gamble pays off in the end.

All in all the keys to success lie in having the confidence to think big, market yourself accordingly, and of course, work hard, but it’s important not to be so cocky that you burn bridges, and/or sabotage yourself or your loved ones. Act with fearlessness, but also with wisdom and foresight, never gamble more than you’re willing to lose. Now, this is not to say that if you do misstep and shoot yourself in the foot, the road ends there. No matter how many times you fail, there is always hope for renewed success, but learn from LaVar Ball and preemptively avoid mistakes where you can.


Amina Owens (@DSTBlaze) is a full-time Higher Education professional at a medical school in Manhattan, with a passion for social issues. She’s also a freelance writer/editor, founder of t-shirt company Timeless Beauty Inc., and founder of federally recognized non-profit org., the Sheila A. Jackson Foundation. Her foundation seeks to raise funding and awareness for heart health and minority organ donation.