NBA — Lonzo Ball Viewer’s Guide – The must-see matchups of his rookie season

Lonzo Ball’s got beef.

Or, to be more accurate, much of the NBA has beef with Lonzo Ball, thanks largely to the bombastic claims of his father, LaVar. Heading into his rookie season, the Lakers point guard has attracted a bright spotlight while simultaneously putting a target on his back, with more than his fair share of individual matchups getting the kind of treatment that is usually reserved for long-standing rivalries built over years and decades.

Since it’s hard to keep track of every outrageous statement LaVar Ball has made to ramp up the pressure on his eldest son, we’ve got you covered with a game-by-game look at what Lonzo will face as he navigates the NBA landscape in 2017-18.

Oct. 19, Nov. 27, Dec. 29 and April 11 at Los Angeles

Beef with: The organization

Origin of beef: Lonzo Ball is from the Los Angeles area and made no secret last season of his desire to stay home and play for his hometown Lakers in the NBA. In June, before the draft, Lonzo and LaVar appeared together on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” and the host asked Lonzo whether he had any interest in playing for the Clippers.

“They don’t really have a chance, so no,” Lonzo answered.

It’s likely that Lonzo was simply referring to the fact that the Clippers didn’t have a pick in the 2017 draft, but the phrasing left things open for interpretation. It didn’t help that Lonzo had what LaVar called the worst game of his career in his summer league debut against those same Clippers.

Aaron Dana

Oct. 25 at Los Angeles, Nov. 9 at Washington

Beef with: Wale (rapper/Wizards superfan)

Origin of beef: On May 4, LaVar Ball introduced the world to the ZO2, Lonzo Ball’s signature shoe for his family’s Big Baller Brand label. While many balked at the $495 price tag, LaVar defended it, tweeting, “If you can’t afford the ZO2’S, you’re NOT a BIG BALLER!” Rapper Wale, a longtime Wizards fan who has served as a creative liaison for the team, said in a since-deleted tweet, “What about the kids that look up to your sons ? You don’t have to insult them OG .. [Michael Jordan] never insulted ppl who couldn’t afford his kicks.” LaVar didn’t respond to the tweet directly, but told The Dan Le Batard Show, “You see, when you are your own owner, you can come up with any price you want.”

Nov. 3 at Los Angeles, Feb. 2 at Brooklyn

Beef with: D’Angelo Russell (former Laker and current Nets point guard)

Origin of beef: In 2015, Russell was the No. 2 overall pick by the Lakers, and he held down the point guard spot for the team over the past two seasons. Shortly after the Lakers finished second in this year’s draft lottery — putting them in position to draft Lonzo Ball — Russell liked a tweet that said the Lakers shouldn’t draft Ball. Ball told reporters after his workout with the Lakers, “They have a lot of good players. I just think they need a leader, a point guard, and I feel I can bring that to the team.”

That’s called “shade.” Russell and Ball never got the chance to battle for the Lakers’ point guard spot, as Los Angeles shipped Russell to Brooklyn ahead of the draft. You can only imagine that Russell will want to prove to the Lakers’ new front-office brass that it made the wrong decision.

Nov. 8 at Boston, Jan. 23 at Los Angeles

Beef with: The organization

Origin of beef: Many trades ago, the Celtics held the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA draft. They invited Lonzo Ball to work out for the team in advance of the draft, and he “politely said no,” according to Celtics GM Danny Ainge. That shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, since before the lottery, Ball told ESPN’s SportsNation that he’d rather be a Laker than be the No. 1 overall pick. Ball didn’t work out for Boston, which eventually traded the top pick to Philadelphia. The 76ers then passed on picking Ball, who happily fell to the Lakers at No. 2, where he will be a focal point of a renewed Lakers-Celtics rivalry for years to come.

Nov. 11 at Milwaukee, March 30 at Los Angeles

Beef with: Jason Kidd (former NBA point guard and current Bucks coach)

Origin of beef: Kidd is one of the greatest point guards of all time. He finished his career with 12,091 assists, the second most in NBA history. He also helped the then-New Jersey Nets reach back-to-back NBA Finals and won a title with the Dallas Mavericks in 2011. But, of course, LaVar Ball thinks Kidd can’t measure up to Lonzo.

“He could have a better first step, he can jump higher,” LaVar said of Kidd during an interview with ESPN LA 710 in August, “but he ain’t gonna win like my boy. My boy wins.”

It’s safe to say the Bucks will want to prove to the Balls that Kidd wins plenty these days when Milwaukee hosts the Lakers.

Aaron Dana

Nov. 15 at Los Angeles, Dec. 7 at Philadelphia

Beef with: Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid (76ers stars)

Origin of beef: On draft night back in June, LaVar Ball guaranteed the Lakers would make the playoffs, leading Simmons — the No. 1 pick in 2016 — to tweet “Crazy pills.” Embiid, whose Twitter game has made him a legend — even as he has missed most of his first three seasons with injuries — followed up that tweet with one of his own, “Please dunk on him so hard that his daddy runs on the court to save him..”

Lonzo Ball dismissed the barbs, calling them “funny,” but that didn’t squash the beef. In early July, a video circulated on social media of Embiid saying, “F— LaVar Ball,” to which LaVar responded by telling TMZ that Embiid’s vocabulary was limited and that he was “small change.”

“I got three words for him,” LaVar told TMZ of Embiid. “Can’t. Play. At. All. Oh shoot, that’s four.”

If that doesn’t do it for you, there’s also the matchup between the top two picks of the 2017 NBA draft, with Lonzo Ball facing top pick Markelle Fultz for the first time in their NBA careers.

Nov. 22 and Feb. 24 at Sacramento, Jan. 9 and April 1 at Los Angeles

Beef with: De’Aaron Fox (Kings rookie), Shaquille O’Neal (Kings part-owner)

Origin of beef: The rivalry between Fox and Lonzo Ball dates back to their one year in college, when they met on the court twice. Ball got the better of Fox in their first meeting, but then Fox dropped 39 points on Ball in the Sweet 16, telling Sports Illustrated he did it to “shut LaVar Ball up.”

The two were slated to have their rubber match at the Las Vegas Summer League, but Ball was held out of the game with a sore groin, leading Fox to tweet the facepalm emoji — a tweet he quickly deleted and later said he only sent to get the media riled up.

If that isn’t enough drama for you, there’s also the ongoing beef between O’Neal, a part-owner of the Kings, and LaVar Ball. Back in May, O’Neal was one of the many who criticized the cost of Lonzo Ball’s signature Big Baller Brand sneaker. Then in July, O’Neal recorded a diss track directed at LaVar, who responded the next day by telling Overtime, “He gotta put my name in whatever he doing, elsewise everybody forget about Shaq.”

Nov. 29 and Dec. 18 at Los Angeles, Dec. 22 and March 14 at Golden State

Beef with: Just about everybody

Origin of beef: Where to begin?

Let’s start with the obvious one, the statement that put LaVar Ball on the national radar.

“I have the utmost confidence in what my boy is doing. He’s better than Steph Curry to me,” LaVar said in February. “Put Steph Curry on UCLA’s team right now and put my boy on Golden State and watch what happens.”

As a reminder, Stephen Curry was the two-time reigning MVP at this time, and was headed toward his second championship in three seasons.

Then in March, Warriors coach Steve Kerr was asked about LaVar’s outlandish statements and told ESPN 1000’s Waddle and Silvy, “I don’t think it’s helping his kids. I think it’d be better for them if they can just play and have fun and not have to hear that every day, but whatever. It’s all part of it.”

In May, Draymond Green criticized the price tag on the Big Baller Brand sneakers, saying on his Dray Day podcast on Uninterrupted, “This kid has never scored a layup in the NBA. He thinks he’s gonna sell his shoes for $500? That’s just absurd.”

Even Steve Nash, a consultant for the Warriors, got dragged into this ever-expanding beef. LaVar Ball was asked about a report that the former two-time MVP was working out with Lonzo, and he dismissed the idea as absurd, telling ClutchPoints, “What Steve Nash going to teach my boy? He’s short and slow, man. Come on.”

Dec. 9 at Charlotte, Jan. 5 at Los Angeles

Beef with: Michael Jordan (Hornets owner)

Origin of beef: LaVar Ball played one season of Division I college basketball, averaging 2.2 points per game as a little-used reserve for Washington State. Michael Jordan is the greatest player in NBA history.

So there’s no way LaVar would ever consider putting himself on Jordan’s level, right? Wrong. So very, very wrong.

“Back in my heyday, I would kill Michael Jordan one-on-one,” LaVar told USA Today Sports in March.

He reiterated that claim a few weeks later on First Take, then Lonzo got in on the hypothetical matchup, saying on Jimmy Kimmel Live! that he’d beat the 54-year-old Jordan in a one-on-one matchup right now.

Jordan responded to LaVar’s claim during a Q&A session at his basketball camp, telling the crowd, “It doesn’t dignify an answer, but I’m going to give it to you because you asked the question. I don’t think he could beat me if I was one-legged.”

LaVar wasn’t content to let things go, telling ESPN 850’s The Really Big Show, “He talking about he can beat me with one leg, well guess what? I can beat him with one hand. Now we both out there looking like we can’t play.”

Neither LaVar Ball nor Michael Jordan will actually be on the court for this Lakers-Hornets game (we think), but that shouldn’t reduce the drama one bit.

Dec. 14 at Cleveland, March 11 at Los Angeles

Beef with: LeBron James (four-time MVP)

Origin of beef: LaVar Ball is very proud of his trio of basketball-playing sons, insisting that all three will be one-and-done college players and NBA stars. He said one of the reasons his sons are set up for NBA success is they don’t have the pressure of living up to an NBA star’s legacy, like what faces LeBron James’ sons (who, mind you, are just 12 and 9 years old).

“You got LeBron, it’s going to be hard for his kids because they are going to look at them like, ‘You got to be just like your dad,'” LaVar said on the In the Zone podcast with Chris Broussard back in March. “And after a while, that pressure starts sitting on you like, ‘Why do I got to be just like him? What, can’t I just be me?’ And then they are going to be like, ‘Aw, you’re soft, you’re not that good.’ Because the expectation is very, very high.”

James wasn’t about to let that slide, addressing LaVar directly with his response.

“Keep my kids’ name out of your mouth. Keep my family out of your mouth,” James told ESPN after a Cavaliers practice on UCLA’s campus during a road trip in Los Angeles. “This is dad-to-dad. It’s a problem now.”

LaVar responded, telling Fox Sports Radio he had no problem with James, but added, “It’s just like people saying, ‘Keep my family’s mouth’ — whatever they’re saying, I don’t care. They’re not going to stop me from doing what I’m doing.”

Of course, the added twist is that the Lakers — and LaVar — would like James to sign in Los Angeles to play alongside Lonzo Ball next summer. LaVar said as much, telling TMZ Sports, “If [LeBron] joins the Lakers, he’ll finish his career as a champion.”

Jan. 3 and Feb. 8 at Los Angeles, Jan. 17 and Feb. 4 at Oklahoma City

Beef with: Russell Westbrook (former UCLA star), Carmelo Anthony (No. 64 in #NBArank)

Origin of beef: Every Lakers-Thunder game this season will have added intrigue because of the $500,000 fine the Lakers received for tampering with Thunder star Paul George, who was then with the Pacers. However, there’s also the matchup between Lonzo Ball and Westbrook, who starred at UCLA eight years before Ball arrived on campus.

Back in May, LaVar Ball told Undisputed, “Look what Lonzo did for UCLA. He sold that place out and it hasn’t been sold-out in 10 years.”

Who played at UCLA within that 10-year span? Oh, that’s right, Westbrook. In fact, Westbrook was part of back-to-back Final Four teams during his two seasons with the Bruins, while Lonzo’s UCLA squad bowed out of the NCAA tournament in the Sweet 16.

Westbrook is also the reigning MVP who set a record by recording 42 triple-doubles in 2016-17. Lonzo Ball set a record by notching two triple-doubles at the Las Vegas Summer League. We’ll see whether either — or both — has a triple-double when they clash in the regular season.

As for Anthony, his beef might be more with us than with Lonzo, but the Lakers rookie was the player who landed one spot ahead of Melo in ESPN’s annual NBA player rankings, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the former Knicks star wanted to show that he still belongs ahead of Lonzo in the league’s hierarchy.

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NBA — Lonzo Ball Viewer’s Guide – The must-see matchups of his rookie season

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