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LaVar Ball was a decent athlete, but he probably couldn't take on Michael Jordan

LaVar Ball is not just the outspoken father of Lonzo Ball. The alleged super-athlete who could take on Michael Jordan in a one-on-one has a long background in sports.

NCAA Basketball: Washington State at UCLA Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

LaVar Ball has been a content machine throughout the past month, generating headlines left and right for takes so hot that they knocked Stephen A. Smith off his throne.

We all know about the things LaVar Ball has said. He has made so many claims up to this point, that it’s hard to remember that the father of UCLA superstar Lonzo Ball was a relatively obscure name in sports just a month ago.

Ball’s mouth has been his claim to fame. But for a guy who seems to take so much pride in his athletic ability and accomplishments, it should be no surprise that the notorious sports dad was once a decent athlete himself.

High school

There’s not much information on Ball’s high school athletic accomplishments, but we know a few things. First of all, Ball was — according to one of his college basketball coaches — a good quarterback at Canoga Park High School. In describing Ball, the Los Angeles Times even called him a “6-foot 4-inch, 225-pound former football star.”


Despite not having played much basketball at the prep level, Ball eventually became a solid player for West Los Angeles College, setting the school’s single-season rebounding record (316) in 1985. His efforts paid off, as Ball transferred to Washington State and eventually became a starter. After averaging just more than two points per game, Ball transferred again — this time to Cal State Los Angeles, which competed in NCAA Division II.

Professional football

Following his college basketball career, Ball was invited to a football tryout in the early 1990s, which eventually propelled him to a career (kind of) in the NFL. Ball, a self-proclaimed “speed demon,” was signed to the New York Jets practice squad before being immediately shipped to the London Monarchs of the World League of American Football (WLAF). Ball, who played tight end, didn’t appear to catch a single pass while in London. However, he did return two kickoffs — one which went for 20 yards and another that went for just 8 yards.

Ball also spent time on the Carolina Panthers practice squad during the franchise’s inaugural 1995 season, though it’s unclear whether his stint in Carolina or New York/London happened first. Scott Fowler, who has been with the Charlotte Observer since Ball’s playing days, had some choice words concerning the former tight end:

I covered that 1995 team, and I never interviewed him once. Nor did anyone else at the Observer ever talk to a young LaVar Ball — or at least there's nothing in our archives to indicate it.

In our defense, Ball was a practice-squad tight end, and those guys don't get interviewed much. But my gosh — how much fun would that interview have been?

So here I was standing near the Muhammad Ali of the Panthers locker room in 1995 — well, at least a mouth like Ali, although not the actual athletic talent. And I never interviewed him! Shame on me.

I do vaguely remember that Ball was a very big guy but not much of a blocker on a team where Pete Metzelaars was the starting tight end.

But if I had talked to Ball in 1995, I am going to guess he would have said that he could have played linebacker better than Sam Mills or quarterbacked the team better than Kerry Collins on that inaugural team — if coach Dom Capers had only given him the chance.

From Fowler’s account, it appears Ball may have even spent time in the same locker room as Bill Goldberg, who is better known for his role as “Goldberg” in the WWE Universe.

The man who legitimately believes he could cook Michael Jordan in a one-on-one doesn’t have near the athletic legacy as the all-time great. But in Ball’s defense, he was kind of a professional athlete, at least in some sense of the term.

Lonzo Ball turned UCLA's offense around fast