There have been many notoriously overbearing sports parents, but the most extreme was probably Marv Marinovich, father of infamous NFL flameout Todd.
Marv, a failed player turned Oakland Raiders strength coach, decided before his son was born that the boy would become the greatest quarterback in history. He went to extreme lengths to ensure that happened, beginning Todd's physical conditioning regimen when he was just one month old; putting him on a balance beam before he could walk; sending him to other kids' birthday parties with his own cake – so he could avoid eating refined sugar and white flour. Marv put a football in Todd's crib on the day he was born.
"Not a real NFL ball," he told Sports Illustrated. "That would be sick. It was a stuffed ball."
Unbeknownst to Marv, teenage Todd was also drinking and smoking weed, but he was still performing on the field. For a while there, Todd was the Next Big Thing. The emotional cracks started showing in college. He was busted on a cocaine charge 10 days before declaring for the NFL draft. Todd managed to just barely keep it together for a couple of seasons before sliding off the rails and eventually out of football. His life since has been a sad string of drug arrests, diversion programs and stints in rehab. He's 47 now and looks 20 years older.
Nobody blames Todd Marinovich for his sports failures. And he doesn't blame Marv. But plenty of other people do.
Since that high-profile parenting disaster 25 years ago, people have been on a constant lookout for the next Bad Sports Parent.
Not because anybody cares about the athletes, but because it makes the rest of us feel superior.
Maybe you did once drop Junior on his head, but at least you've never punched a referee at an under-6 soccer match. You have standards.
The best-known Bad Sports Parents come in several types: the compulsive hanger-on (Judy Murray), the amateur coach (Tony Rasmus), the abusive screamer (John Tomic), the financial vampire (Stefano Capriati).
Tennis is particularly fertile ground for hatching these weirdos.
One does often think: "Why is a 30-year-old man bringing his mother to work?" But these high-achieving children are an investment of sorts, so I suppose going to Wimbledon is a little like keeping tabs on your portfolio.
As long as they're not abusing their children, they can also be quite amusing.
The Bad Sports Parent reminds us that even famous people are beleaguered in their home lives by the same problems that afflict the rest of us. Like that time Mom humiliated you at the NHL draft.
Thursday signalled the full arrival of the next-gen model, the Bad Sports Parent 2.0: LaVar Ball.
LaVar is the father of Lonzo, who was just taken second overall in the NBA draft by his hometown team, the Los Angeles Lakers.
You may never have watched Lonzo play basketball, but I am fairly certain you have seen, heard or read about LaVar participating in his best event – talking nonsense.
In the months leading up to his son's investment into the NBA, LaVar has claimed all sorts of outrageous things: that Lonzo is already better than reigning MVP Steph Curry; that, despite having averaged just two points a game in college, he himself was once a better one-on-one player than Michael Jordan; that his sons (there are more of them) deserve the first billion-dollar shoe deal.
(It should be noted that, while this all sounds ridiculous, it is reminiscent of the way Richard Williams once spoke of his tennis-playing daughters, drawing the same sort of jeers. Though a Bad Sports Parent indeed, Williams has had the last laugh on that score.)
LaVar Ball is an advancement in Bad Sports Parenting because he manages to combine all of the breed's dysfunctional traits into one, very loud person.
He plans to get rich off his kids' accomplishments – he has just launched a $495 (U.S.) shoe in Lonzo's name.
He got another son's high-school coach fired because he knows better. He is everywhere with his children, routinely talking over or openly contradicting them, making the young men look like henpecked preschoolers.
At root, he's an addict for attention. If you walk onto the street outside your home right now and hold a microphone in the air, LaVar Ball will eventually find his way to you and begin shouting into it.
Predictably, he has been scolded from all corners for his approach. But no one's complaining about all the interest he creates.
The NBA, ESPN, Turner Sports – they're all happy to make a meal of LaVar Ball's antics, mainly by complaining they don't taste right. It's this sort of hypocrisy that greases the gears of the U.S. sports media's Outrage-a-thon.
If there can be a genuine criticism of Ball, it would be that he is ruining his children. But that doesn't seem to be the case. At least not yet. He has, after all, gotten one seemingly well-adjusted kid into the NBA.
Lonzo recently cut a tongue-in-cheek Foot Locker ad that poked fun at his father under the guise of thanking him for being there ("that special moment when your dad sits you down and tells you where you're going to college … copyrights your name to make it part of a family lifestyle brand … and then tells 29 out of 30 teams to not bother drafting you").
If there's a punchline here, LaVar and Lonzo appear to be in on it.
If the NBA has a problem right now, it is twofold: a lack of competitiveness and having reduced all of its biggest stars into lockstep human brands. With a few notable exceptions, no one dares go off script. Their focus is selling things. Winning is a means to that end rather than an end itself.
LaVar Ball is the antidote to that league-wide erasure of personality.
He is a Bad Sports Parent par excellence, but having excised all the truly malign aspects of the type.
He's a polarizing hype man working from outside the system.
In terms of drawing new attention to the product, he may be the NBA's most valuable pick-up in the draft.