LaVar Ball is best known for his outspoken personality and his wild claims, like how he could have beaten Michael Jordan one-on-one back in the day. What Ball isn’t well known for is the time he spent in training camp with the New York Jets and on the Carolina Panthers’ practice squad.
Ball played just one year of college football at Long Beach City College before transitioning to basketball. The Jets signed him as a defensive end in 1994, when Ball was 26 years old and 6’5, 263 pounds.
He got another shot with the Jets the following year, this time as a tight end. That didn’t work out, either, and the team shipped him off to the London Monarchs of the World League of American Football. He had no receptions, but racked up 28 kick return yards.
Boomer Esiason, the Jets quarterback during Ball’s brief New York tenure, doesn’t remember him at all. Former Jets linebacker Marvin Jones does.
"He was a very athletic guy and raw,” Jones said, via ESPN’s Rich Cimini. “I remember him very well because he played only one year of college football. I remember a very confident guy and, yes, he voiced his opinion and was cocky, but overall seemed like a great guy."
Ball landed on the Carolina Panthers practice squad in September of 1996 and was released on Dec. 1.
Former Panthers wide receiver Mark Carrier was surprised when he found out Ball had been his teammate in Carolina.
“I had no idea!” Carrier said, via the Charlotte Observer’s Mark Fowler. “Are you sure LaVar Ball isn’t making this up?”
Ball’s focus now is squarely on his three sons — UCLA star Lonzo Ball, and high schoolers LiAngelo and LaMelo — and their basketball careers. And while it’s unlikely that Ball could have ever taken Jordan one-on-one, he was an impressive enough athlete to get a shot, however brief, at the NFL level.