At this point, we’re all aware of LaVar Ball. He makes outlandish guarantees (how’d that 2017 UCLA national championship work out, buddy?) to go along with outlandish demands. Among his demands is the asking price for the shoe deal he believes his sons deserve. Or is it the asking price he believes he deserves?
[Merenbloom: LaVar Ball Lives Through His Protege Son Lonzo Ball]
Ball does have a small group of supporters. The narrative goes something like this – LaVar is a proud dad who wants nothing but the best for his sons. What dad wouldn’t and shouldn’t act like LaVar as a child’s dreams are being supported?
It’s now time for a comparison of fathers. Let’s discuss Missouri assistant coach Michael Porter Sr. and his son Michael Porter Jr.
Porter Jr. is the No. 1 ranked recruit in the 2017 class. He had originally committed to play for Lorenzo Romar and the Washington Huskies. And then Romar was fired. Porter Jr. reopened his recruitment and he’s now headed to Missouri.
And for this, Porter Sr. is considered to be worse than Ball. How did we get to this point? Glad you asked.
Porter Sr. is married to Lisa Becker. That is important because that makes Robin Pingeton Porter Sr.’s sister-in-law. Pingeton is the head coach of the women’s basketball team at Missouri.
Pingeton had hired Porter Sr. to be one of her Director of Basketball Operations and eventually promoted him to assistant coach. He had played college ball, toured with Athletes In Action, and coached at the AAU level. So this wasn’t like hiring some guy off the street. And, sure, it helped that Pingeton is Porter Sr.’s sister-in-law. But none-the-less, Porter Sr. was qualified to be an assistant.
Porter Sr. spent six seasons at Missouri before accepting a job with Romar at Washington. Make no mistake, Romar’s hiring of Porter Sr. was about much more than Porter Jr.
Romar and Porter Sr. go a long way back. Romar was a player-coach on the Athletes In Action team that Porter Sr. had played on in the early 1990s. Porter Sr. credits Romar for turning his life around. In short, Romar was the mentor who influenced Porter Sr. to grow up and become an adult.
“I mean, I was at a crossroads, and they took me in and let me live with them,” Porter said. “I saw a stable family. I saw a man who was committed to his family, and those were just examples that I needed to see up close and personal at that point in my life.”
Asked to expand upon that crossroads, Porter replied: “Just the kind of guy I was. Lorenzo was one of the first guys to tell me the truth about myself. ‘Porter, man, you’ve always got an excuse for why you don’t do what you’re supposed to do. You’ve always got an excuse for why you’re late.’ Stuff like that.
“I tell my kids all the time, I couldn’t care less if they played basketball, and I mean that from my heart,” Michael Sr. said. “I love that they play, because Lisa and I played and we love this game, but we are way more concerned about the people they become than being great basketball players.
“We talk a lot about, in your own mind, understanding there’s a distinction. Basketball’s what you do. It’s not who you are. Who you are is a human being. Love people, and treat them incredibly well. Those are the things that we value.”
Ball values $1 billion shoe deals. Ball has always defined his children by what they do; playing basketball. The Porters, on the other hand, have taught their children that there’s a distinction between what they do and who they are. Family values don’t come with a balance sheet or profit margin. At least not for the Porters.
I would also argue that the family values that the Porters have instilled in their children include humility.
Porter Sr. played college basketball but wasn’t a superstar. He went on to play for Athletes In Action and then called it a career as far as playing was concerned. He never created his own myth. He never claimed to be able to beat Michael Jordan one-one-on. Instead of inflating his own ego, Porter Sr. accepted his reality and set out to figure out his place in the world.
He wanted to coach so he volunteered with Romar back in the early 1990s and eventually earned spots coaching on the AAU circuit as well as Pingeton’s coaching staff. Porter Sr. even spent time as a Christian hip-hop artist touring under the name, Rahlo. Humility. Porter Sr. has always accepted the reality of his situation and made the most of it.
When critics of Porter Sr. claim he’s worse than Ball and that Porter Sr. is the father who is truly getting rich off of his superstar child, I can’t help but jump to his defense. It’s difficult to believe that Porter Sr. is living vicariously through his kids after examining his life. Porter Sr. has never been a person who chased the spotlight. He’s a person who has chased happiness through strong family values and humility.
No. Porter Sr. is nothing like Ball.
E-mail Seth at seth [dot] merenbloom [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
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