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LaVar Ball’s boasts about sons, including UCLA star Lonzo, draw strong reactions

LaVar Ball cheers his sons during a game between Chino Hills and Immanuel High on March 12, 2016. Ball's three sons all played for Chino Hills last year. Lonzo is now at UCLA while LiAngelo and LaMelo are both committed to be Bruins.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The NBA world according to LaVar Ball will be a bustling place for his sons in the coming years. UCLA freshman point guard Lonzo Ball will be the No. 1 pick in the June draft, a designation to be shared by LiAngelo Ball in 2018 and LaMelo Ball in 2020 after the middle and youngest brothers also spend only one season in Westwood.

Lonzo will make his NBA debut only six months after having led the Bruins to their first national championship since 1995, allowing Stephen Curry, the league’s two-time reigning most valuable player, to figure out how much ground he needs to make up to be as good as his new counterpart.

The recent boasts by LaVar Ball about his sons have delighted some and repulsed others. They come as no surprise to his eldest son, who said they do not add pressure even though he in essence has been purported by his father to be the world’s best point guard at age 19.

“I’ve been living with him since I’ve been born,” Lonzo cracked Saturday night after UCLA’s 102-70 victory over USC at Pauley Pavilion. “He’s always been like that. He talks what’s on his mind and all I’ve got to do is go out there and play my game. . . . I let him do all the talking and I just try to play.”

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Lonzo is having one of the best debut seasons in Bruins history, averaging 15.4 points, 7.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds per game for a team that is 24-3 and ranked No. 5 in the nation. His 206 assists have established a UCLA record for a freshman.

They are numbers that have Ball widely projected as a top-three pick in the draft. His father has higher aspirations for his son, telling TMZ Sports recently that he would be better than Curry ... before amending those comments to the Pac-12 Networks during the broadcast of the UCLA-USC game to say that Lonzo was already a notch above the Golden State Warriors star.

“I’m gonna tell you right now, he’s better than Steph Curry to me,” LaVar Ball said. “Put Steph Curry on UCLA’s team right now and put my boy on Golden State and watch what happens. I’ll double down on it again. Like I said, if I don’t know what my boy is about, I’m not going to make that statement. Steph’s going to have problems trying to guard my boy. Play one on one!”

The comments made headlines on various websites and were derided by several bloggers as over the top. Don MacLean, a Pac-12 Networks analyst and UCLA’s all-time leading scorer, criticized the remarks on the air, calling them “outrageous” during postgame coverage.

But they’re completely in character for LaVar, who told The Times in November, before Lonzo had played his first game at UCLA, that he would win a national championship, and that all three Ball brothers would be No. 1 overall NBA draft picks. LiAngelo is a senior and LaMelo a sophomore at Chino Hills High.

“I look at it like this: The guys at UCLA, they’re there for a reason,” LaVar said at the time. “They can play a little bit. So now that’s why I tell people and I feel strong about it: UCLA’s going to win the NCAA championship.”

This year?

“This year. This team. People don’t break it down like my son. You don’t have to go undefeated to get to the tournament. They’re going to get to the tournament. Now all you’ve got to do is win [six] games. And the bigger the game, the better ’Zo plays. And that’s what people don’t understand. He loves the championship feel. He gets to the championship, he’s going to win. He’s not going to lose.”

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Washington Wizards point guard John Wall told TMZ Sports that LaVar’s comments elevating his son above Curry could have repercussions once Lonzo reaches the NBA.

“Definitely when rookies come into the league, a lot of people try to leave a statement, like let them know how the league is, especially if they’re going to be going against them for the next couple of years,” Wall said. “He just added fuel to the fire to when he probably plays Steph Curry or plays any other point guards after he gets drafted.”

In the meantime, Lonzo indicated that his father’s declarations have only fueled his confidence.

“Of course I appreciate it,” Lonzo said. “That’s my dad, man. Who wouldn’t want their son to be the best, you know? So I love him and whatever he says, I’m going to roll with.”

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And if LaVar ultimately proves correct with his predictions, he might deserve a few apologies.

“You’re not going to be able to [judge] this until my boy is finished playing,” LaVar told TMZ Sports, “and then they’re going to look back and say, ‘Man, how did LaVar know all of this?’”

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Twitter: @latbbolch

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