In the world of sports right now nobody has a spotlight shining on them more brightly than Lonzo Ball, son of the notoriously loquacious LaVar Ball.
The elder Ball’s words have heaped an enormous amount of pressure onto 19-year-old Lonzo’s shoulders as he prepares for the NBA Draft and his first season as an professional in the NBA.
But while it may seem like Lonzo is unique in the pressure he’s certain to face, there is another youngster that can relate to Ball and may actually be attempting to emerge from behind an even bigger shadow — literally — this coming year.
Shaquille O’Neal’s 17-year-old son Shareef is ridiculously good at basketball and will be playing at the University of Arizona this year. While Shaq has done anything but cast unfair expectations on his son, the fact that his father is one of the best of all time is more than enough pressure for a young player to live up to on its own.
Shareef spoke to Bleacher Report’s Dave Shilling about his own difficulties with the pressure to “live up to the hype” and empathized with Lonzo.
“With the Ball family, they’re all really talented. They’re amazing. They play a different style of basketball, but like, media, paying attention more to high school and younger kids, amateurs — it’s hard. I was born into it, but I understand how people feel … Lonzo Ball dominated high school. He dominated college. Now, it’s even bigger, because he’s going to the NBA. Everybody’s waiting to see what he’s gonna do on the floor. That’s probably the biggest part of it, the pressure … When I was younger, I used to worry about being an NBA bust, but I know I’m not. I keep working hard to prove everybody wrong.”
“Every time I’m free, I go and shoot or go on a run, do some push-ups. Do everything to get an advantage; just one step above and just block everything out. I hear everything people in the crowd say, but it doesn’t bother me anymore … Depending on who you are and how big you are, the worse the crowd is gonna be toward you. Me having an NBA Hall of Famer as a dad, everyone’s coming at me. Everyone’s attacking me when I’m on the court. The more mature I get, the more I can handle it.”
While Shareef sure sounds mature enough to handle the spotlight, he still has a lot to prove at the college level and a ways to go before he has to worry about the NBA and the NBA Draft.
Lonzo, meanwhile, is on the doorstep of being the most watched player in the NBA. After the NBA Draft on June 22, it’s put up or shut up time for Ball — well, more so Ball’s father. But either way, the pressure is on once the draft concludes.