You may know Tina Ball (or Tina Slatinsky) as the ultimate basketball mother. Not only was she a college basketball player at Cal State Los Angeles, but her three sons with LaVar Ball — Lonzo, LiAngelo, and LaMelo — are all basketball players. The family starred in a reality show for multiple seasons called Ball in the Family. The Washington Post wrote about Tina Ball back in 2018, 15 months after a stroke that left her with aphasia.


We have been profiling well-known people with aphasia, including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Gabby Giffords. We’ve now turned our attention to Tina Ball.

After the Stroke

Tina Ball experienced a stroke while at home in February 2017. The Post reports:


The incident left her with expressive aphasia, a condition that affects a third of all stroke survivors and — though Tina can visualize precisely the words she’d like to say — largely robs them of verbal communication. In other words, the matriarch of the most loquacious family in sports has lost her ability to speak.


While her personality didn’t change — her father is “thankful the stroke left her confidence and sense of humor intact” — she needed to relearn how to write and speak along with physical changes after the stroke. Even today, her speech is still limited, which you can hear in this video interview.


From Loud to Quiet

Aphasia is frustrating. As Tina’s father works with her to write letters of the alphabet, it is explained, “In Tina’s mind, she is aware the letter J exists, but she cannot visualize it. The way Bob understands it, this is like searching a disorganized garage for a screwdriver: It’s here somewhere, but where?”


Aphasia has changed the way she experiences sports:


She has been going to basketball games for decades, back when she could scream with everyone else … Even when her son glides up the court, pivots and uncorks that off-center shot that took him from their backyard to the NBA, she waves her good hand and wants to join in the noise, wants it so bad — but even inside this vortex of commotion, where ticket-holders wear jerseys and people speak in shouts, the words swirl in her mind and yet she says nothing.

LaVar’s Role

Her husband’s style of encouragement, pressuring his wife to regain her ability to speak and move, is similar to Roald Dahl’s harsh treatment of Patricia Neal. The Post reports,


LaVar will, during a one-hour interview, praise his wife’s fortitude and progress, but more frequently he brags about the harsh things he has told her over the past 15 months. His words draw shocked expressions from strangers, he says, and LaVar’s own mother often leaves the room when he speaks to Tina this way.


But it aligns with the way he parents and coaches, pushing people along with the sheer force of his words.


Image: screenshot from a Tina Ball interview