John Wall’s Wizards were the favorite to take down a young Los Angeles Lakers team led by Lonzo Ball on Wednesday. But once LaVar Ball started yapping his mouth — and oh, did he start yapping — things changed, and fast.
After Wall said he would show “no mercy” to the rookie Ball, the Wizards blew a late lead and took their first loss of the season, with LaVar getting the last laugh. Actually it was the second-to-last laugh. For Wall, social media will be in tears at him for at least another 24 hours.
Here’s how LaVar turned this run-of-the-mill regular-season game into an event.
LaVar Ball did what LaVar Ball always does
LaVar started talking well before Wall and Lonzo Ball went head-to-head on Wednesday. After the Lakers lost to the Pelicans earlier in the week, LaVar’s message was simple: Lonzo ain’t losing twice in one week:
“Washington coming in here Wednesday? They better beware,” Ball told Ball Is Life. “Because Lonzo ain’t losing again! Not in the same week!”
The Wizards saw LaVar’s comments and responded
First Marcin Gortat returned fire on Twitter, saying Wall would “torture” Lonzo for 48 minutes:
man..... pleaseeeeee!!! @JohnWall will torture him for 48min— Marcin Gortat (@MGortat) October 23, 2017
Then Wall added his own two cents, via The Washington Post:
“Nah, no mercy. Certain matchups you really get up for,” Wall said via The Washington Post’s Candace Buckner, citing a game against Stephen Curry and the Warriors. “His dad has been talking. … That makes me want to go out there and lead my team and play the best I can play.”
But things changed once the two hit the court
Wall welcomed Ball to the NBA with crossover layup filayy:
To steal a line from LaVar, Lonzo Ball better beware of John Wall's crossover. pic.twitter.com/r6qePNX1BQ— NBC Sports Wizards (@NBCSWizards) October 26, 2017
He even blew by Lonzo early in the third quarter for a thunderous one-handed dunk:
But Ball had his own highlight moments, too.
Before Wall crossed him over and finished at the rim, Ball stripped him on a layup attempt and found Brandon Ingram for an assist:
Gimme dat! Lonzo with the steal on Wall.pic.twitter.com/ZVZe33vsNN— Leading NBA (@LeadingNBA) October 26, 2017
Ball even found Larry Nance Jr. with this beauty of a full-court chest pass for an and-one:
In total, Wall finished with 18 points, nine assists, three rebounds, and a steal, and he shot 7-of-22 on the night to get there. He also fell apart when the Wizards needed him most, clanking 10 of his final 11 shots. That’s not an awful night by any stretch, but it’s a far cry from “torture” and “no mercy.”
Ball finished with just three points on 2-of-11 shooting, but he had 10 assists, eight rebounds, and a game-high plus-13 to show for his night. And when the Lakers won, it was his heady defense on Wall that made the difference.
John Wall going against Lonzo Ball to end the game, misses 3-pointer pic.twitter.com/Kki8uYN5vm— gifdsports (@gifdsports) October 26, 2017
After the game, Wall gave some praise to Ball for not being bothered by the hype:
"He's a quiet kid who doesn't say too much," Wall told ESPN's Jeff Goodman. "He's been dealing with it [his father's outspoken comments] his whole life. It doesn't bother him. It's just new to everybody else. He's very mature for his age.
"He can pass, can score the ball — he just wasn't making shots tonight. We both wanted to play better."
Since Ball’s had to deal with his outspoken father his entire life, nothing is new to him. Not even in the NBA:
"Coming in, I already knew everybody was going to come at me like that," he said to ESPN's Ryan Ruocco before the game. "So I don't really pay it any mind. I'm not going to get into any Twitter war. I'm going to go out there and help my team.
"I'm not saying anything, and I'm not retaliating," added Ball, who has 32 assists in his past three games. "It doesn't affect me in any type of way, I don't think. I just go out there and play. It's the NBA, so guys should want to come at me every night. I have no problem with it. So I just go out there, like I said, and play."
Now, social media is having its fun with John Wall:
That final shot was merciless. LaVar is undefeated— Harrison Faigen (@hmfaigen) October 26, 2017
John wall said he was gonna show no mercy against lonzo... wizards lose... to the lakers... pic.twitter.com/qD9FwOK6Pt— Britt (@britanyc027) October 26, 2017
More like the Lossington Wizards AMIRITE?!— Anthony F. Irwin (@AnthonyIrwinLA) October 26, 2017
And it’s all because of LaVar Ball
This could have been just another regular game, and had it been a regular game, the Wizards probably would have won. They have one of the best backcourts in all of basketball and should be a top-four seed in the East.
But LaVar Ball provoked the Wizards and egged them on into making this about more than basketball. It became mano a mano between Lonzo (and LaVar) and Wall. And Washington lost because of it.
On the last play, Bradley Beal is wide open in the corner. Nine times out of 10, Wall is hitting him for the game-tying shot. But after LaVar so accurately predicted that his son wouldn’t lose twice in one week, and after Wall said he would show no mercy, how could he not take it upon himself to win that game?
Bradley Beal wide open in the corner. John Wall worried about getting the shot against Lonzo Ball. pic.twitter.com/tzdsLpIJst— Clever Hoops (@CleverHoops) October 26, 2017
That wasn’t one team taking on another. It was Wall and Ball engaging in fisticuffs.
That’s the LaVar Ball effect, ladies and gentlemen. He’s the sixth man: the voice in the back of the opponents head, the little red devil on your left shoulder.
And this time he got the last laugh, as he has so many times in the past.
The Final Score: John Wall 99, Lavar and Lonzo Ball 102 pic.twitter.com/Ut9NLYrniQ— Andrew Jerell Jones (@sluggahjells) October 26, 2017
"I told you so," he told ESPN's Goodman after the Lakers' win. "I've seen this story before."