LaVar Ball emerges from the tunnel on the 7th-avenue side of the Garden just after 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. He’s wearing a bright red shirt with three Bs on the front, his Big Baller Brand logo, a black undershirt, gray pants and red shoes to match his can’t-miss top. As he strolls toward the court, under the expansive dome of the World’s Most Famous Arena, the chirps begin from the Big Ballers in attendance, many of them donning the gold and purple Lakers jersey of his oldest son, Lonzo, who is about to make his Broadway debut against the Knicks in a just about a half hour.
The circus has returned to the Garden in the form of the bombastic Ball, the NBA’s very own P.T. Barnum, who trounces hoops legends and disses President Trump with a smirk and wink.
Hit Hot Airness is in the building.
“Lavar! Lavar!,” chants rain down as he moves through the arena.
The most controversial father in America, never one to turn down a marketing opportunity, shakes hands with fans. He signs T-shirts and basks in the attention from onlookers. He walks along the sideline toward his court-side seats on the opposite end of the floor. He greets ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith, the two have devoured air time over the past few months, exchanging biting one-liners and daps, before sitting next to his wife, Tina, sporting black Triple-B winter hat on her head.
The Knicks are hosting a group of young Jewish basketball players for a pregame scrimmage this day, which wraps up shortly after LaVar takes his seat. As soon as the boys see the red shirt, they sprint over and scream.
“Happy Chanukah,” yells LaVar. The coaches shepherding the boys share a laugh at it all.
LaVat Ball poses with two young fans before the Knicks vs. Lakers game.
(Daniel Popper/New York Daily News)
LaVar hears his name once more and turns to see a man in a Triple-B sweatshirt.
“Way to rep that Big Baller Brand,” LaVar bellts out before sitting awaiting for tip-off.
Just before the start of the game, LaVar is joined by his two younger sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, who just signed professional contracts with a Lithuanian team. LaMelo is 16 years old and LiAngelo is 19.
Tina is seated to the right of LaVar. LaMelo is to the left of his father. LiAngelo, who made headlines last month for shoplifting in China, sits next to his younger brother.
At the 7:29 mark of the first quarter, Odell Beckham Jr. enters the arena, dapping up each Ball, starting with LiAngelo. The Giants receiver out all season with a broken left ankle plops down about 20 seats away near midcourt, sitting next to Lakers president of basketball operations and Hall of Famer Magic Johnson. In between Beckham and the Ball family is Spike Lee.
Later in the first quarter, Lavar offers defensive instructions to Lonzo and his teammates. With 4:25 remaining, Lonzo buries a three, his first points of the night. LaVar cries out in jubilation with a bite of hot dog in his mouth.
LaVar opens up a bag of peanut M&Ms and continues barking out orders to the Lakers. Late in the first quarter, he tells something to Jordan Clarkson. The guard returns a nod.
With 1:12 left in the second half, after the Lakers lose the lead, Lonzo buries an elbow jumper to put L.A. up one. For the first time on the night, LaVar stands up, pumping a fist.
Halftime comes and LaVar walks back into the suite area. Upon his return, the former college player who once said he could beat Michael Jordan in a game of 1-on-1 grabs a loose ball and chucks up a deep three that rattles out. Snapping his fingers, he limps away.
Spike Lee walks over to say hello. The two exchange pleasantries. Moments later, Amar’e Stoudemire, in his post-retirement Garden return, approaches the Balls and greets the whole family.
Fireworks explode in the third quarter. Lonzo hits a game-tying three with 9:42 remaining. LaVar rises to his feet and screams “Let’s go!” So taken with the bucket he accidentally knocks over his wife’s cane. Tina is rehabbing from a stroke she suffered in February.
Barely three minutes later, Lonzo starts a fast break on a Brandon Ingram steal. He passed to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who lobs back to his point guard. Lonzo throws down a thunderous one-handed dunk. LaVar again rises from his chair, sticks his finger in the air, and twirls in a circle.
After Kristpas Porzingis drains a three, Lonzo matches him from downtown. LaVar howls again. Lonzo scores his seventh-straight point on the next possession.
A Courtney Lee foul at the 4:04 mark finally stops the frenetic action. Lee walks over and jaws playfully with LaVar.
The Knicks and Lakers go back and forth deep into the fourth quarter. With 3:35 remaining and New York ahead by three, Lonzo blocks a Porzingis jump shot. LaVar shouts at Lee, who waves him off.
When Kyle Kuzma ties the game at 99 on a three-pointer with 24 seconds left, forcing overtime, the Knicks call a timeout, LaVar signaling it himself. He waltzes down the sideline and put his “T” right in Lee’s face. Lee shrugs, the universal gesture for WTF.
The Lakers fall behind in overtime and a loss comes quickly. As the game winds down, Lee walks down over to the Ball family and slaps hands with LaVar, LaMelo and LiAngelo before exiting.
Lavar, in his bright red Triple-B shirt, takes pictures with fans after the clock hits triple zeros. He meanders over to the exit, stopping for a T.V. interview, his new vocation. Fans squawk at him from the stands.
Finishing the interview, he waves to his faithful supporters who follow his every move before he disappears into the tunnel.
They’ll just have to wait to see what he does next.