KFC Finger Lickin' Good Deal
The Ball Family is extending their basketball brand to Lithuania, where LaVar Ball's two youngest sons, LaMelo and LiAngelo (all seated in background watching older brother Lonzo) have signed contracts to launch their pro careers.
James Devaney/NBAE/Getty Images

Lang’s World: Ten pearls of Whitaker’s wit and wisdom on sports and beyond 12.14.17

By Lang Whitaker
Grind City Media

1. Ball In The Family

With the holiday season upon us, this seems like a good time for us to revel in the spirit of the season with our families.

And right now, there is nobody that has redefined the current American family quite like the Ball family. There is plenty for the Balls to celebrate this holiday season: Eldest brother Lonzo just had 17 points, six assists and eight rebounds in his first NBA game at Madison Square Garden; Lonzo’s younger brothers, LiAngelo and LaMelo, just signed their first professional basketball contracts, which is surely something worth celebrating. As the kids say, the brand is strong.

Lonzo will certainly have ups and downs in the NBA, like pretty much all rookies, and they may be magnified because of the great expectations announced by his father, LaVar. But Lonzo clearly is an elite basketball player who, almost as a worst-case scenario, should have a long and lucrative NBA career.

Yet, somehow these days Lonzo has the least interesting storyline among the Ball family – things get way more compelling when we dive in on LiAngelo and LaMelo. Following a stint in hot water while in China a few months back, LiAngelo recently dropped out of UCLA and, along with 16-year-old LaMelo, signed with a professional team in Prienai, Lithuania.

While the Ball brothers have grown up in suburban Los Angeles, Prienai is a town of around 10,000 people on the banks of the Neman River. If you’re going by Google Image Search, it sure seems like a lovely place. Perhaps it’s even a perfect place where the brothers can escape the spotlight and work on their games in some measure of anonymity, although anonymity seems doubtful when some associated with Lithuanian basketball are ready to welcome the Ball family with a song...

Either way, the team the Ball bros. will be joining in Europe seems like a far cry from what they’ve experienced thus far in the United States, that is unless they once had a coach who sold meat out of his car trunk…

So often we hear people talk about how easy athletes have it these days, how younger players are pampered and coddled and given everything and how this does nothing to ensure their future success. So can we at least recognize and acknowledge that regardless of how you spin it, LiAngelo and LaMelo are not taking the easy way out? If they are going to carve out professional careers as basketball players, they could most likely find a simpler, more high-profile path than the one that they are currently volunteering to travel.

By their own design, the Ball family has never really been anonymous, so it’s unlikely that their story gets muted once they head to Europe. There may be no place like home for the holidays, but to me there’s nothing better than chasing your dreams. Even if you have to go far from home to make them come true.

2. Santa Baby

The Dancing TSA Santa may be my second-favorite TSA agent, just behind Rod from Get Out...

3. Gift Guide

While this column will probably mostly serve as a repository for my thoughts, I feel like I should also share life advice that I have accrued over the years. So let’s take a second and talk about buying a holiday gift for your significant other. In my case, that person is my wife, a woman who cares deeply about fashion and style. For very many years, I came up short on Christmas by buying my wife a gift that was something that I thought she would like. This usually involved me asking her friends for ideas and half-heartedly clicking through an online gift guide, then selecting something I guessed she might like, but rarely actually buying her anything she genuinely wanted.

And then last year I realized I was doing it all wrong. So last Christmas, I swerved toward my own strengths and went out and bought my wife something I knew a lot about: A cool pair of kicks. I picked out a dope pair of Nike Dunks in her favorite colors, which she not only didn’t expect but ended up loving.

I think there’s a lesson to be learned here, which is that sometimes you have to play to your own strengths. Can I give my wife sneakers every year? No, which is why this year she’s getting a PS4. (OK, not really.)

4. Wedgie For The Loss

If I was the coach of the team wearing black in this clip, I would have demanded we sit there and wait for hours or days or however long it took for this shot to eventually come off the rim and either go in or out.

5. Get Your Game On

Just wanted to make sure you guys were up to date with the latest from our new team in the upcoming NBA 2K League. Our team name and logo were officially announced today: Say hello to Grizz Gaming.

It’s the first step of many towards this whole thing tipping off in 2018.

6. Unplugged

My family moved into a new home this week, which is a great thing. But our move-in date did not sync up with the date that the technician could come and hook up our television and internet service.

As a result, I have spent the last few days basically unplugged. I’ve been able to play video games in offline modes and watch a few movies that I own on DVD, but that’s it. No music, no TV, no Netflix and no chill. It’s been like going camping inside a house.

I leaned into the circumstance, and I had hoped I would be able to say this week had turned out to be refreshing and terrific, a respite from the ever-encroaching clutches of unrelenting technology.

But nope. The truth is, I have missed technology so much. I missed being able to watch NBA games on League Pass, flipping through random cable channels, throwing on some music. Maybe it’s intrinsic to my generation, but it turns out I need that T1 connection hooked directly into my veins.

Thoreau went out to live in the woods and wrote, “As long as possible live free and uncommitted. It makes but little difference whether you are committed to a farm or the county jail.” As I discovered this week, for better or worse, I am committed to living a plugged-in life. I bet if Thoreau had an Xbox live account, he would’ve stayed at Walden forever.

7. Players Only

One of the more fun books I read this year was Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One, which is about a guy living in a dystopian American future who is attempting to win an ‘80s-themed contest set inside a virtual world called OASIS. It is not the best book I have ever read, but the story moves along and it was fun enough to invest a dozen hours into.

If there’s anything we’ve learned through the years, it’s that if you didn’t read the book you can always just wait for the movie. And this week, we saw the launch of the trailer for the big screen version of Ready Player One, directed (in another neat nod to the ‘80s) by Steven Spielberg, replete with bits of everything from Van Halen to Back to the Future.

I’m ready.

8. NBA’s Ultimate Sneakerhead

NBA fans most likely are tuning in to watch the red-hot Houston Rockets regularly test the limits of offensive basketball. I tune in to Rockets games on any given night mainly to see which pair of shoes P.J. Tucker has broken out.

If you didn’t know, Tucker is not only an ace 3-and-D man for Houston, he’s also the NBA’s greatest sneakerhead. Sure, there are plenty of players who collect kicks and even guys who have their own signature shoe, but Tucker seems to have every shoe. And not only does he have a deep collection, Tucker cares about the brands and the stories behind each shoe, and actually wears these rare shoes in games.

Which is why I smiled last week when I flipped on a Rockets game and noticed Tucker was not only wearing Air Jordan 1s, but he was wearing the recently released “Off-White” limited edition kicks which are now going for upwards of $1,000 online. I am all for collecting sneakers, but shoes are made to be worn.

9. Your Toast

A heated debate arose online earlier this week about the proper way to cut a piece of toast. As you can see here, there were three options presented. As someone who knows a little about food, let me just say that I agree with most of the commenters that option two is a flat-out travesty. I feel like option one is probably the right way to go here, if only because that is what we’ve been conditioned to expect. But I also had some surprisingly strong feelings toward option three, because with that configuration at least you get that extra little bonus knob of bread on each piece. If you voted for option two, you probably believe the hot dog is a sandwich, SMH.

10. Go Forth With Song

We only have two weeks left until Christmas Day, so get your shopping done now. And since we’re in Memphis, here’s Booker T & the M.G.’s with a killer version of “Winter Wonderland”...

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Memphis Grizzlies. All opinions expressed by Lang Whitaker are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Memphis Grizzlies or its Basketball Operations staff, owners, parent companies, partners or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Memphis Grizzlies and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.