Lonzo Ball, unlike most people his age, has his own signature basketball shoe. If his father, LaVar Ball, wasn’t involved, he’d have a much cooler sneaker, but he’s stuck in Big Baller Brand Zo2’s for the foreseeable future. Just how big of a mistake is this? Probably very big, but you never know.
A lot of athletes probably see their teenage selves in Lonzo Ball. Athletes are a fraternity. They deal with things that most people never will, both good and bad. Every professional athlete has had to deal with somebody trying to get rich off their special talent. For many of them, that person was a family member. The biggest difference with the Ball family is that the person is rarely so transparent about it.
What’s the motivation? Greed? Ego? An actual unwavering confidence in his child? That doesn’t really matter in the Ball circus because it looks ridiculous no matter why its happening. Oh, he insulted potential customers? He’s been insulting our intelligence for as long as we’ve known who he is. You think his shoes are ugly? He thinks yours are uglier and he’ll tell you about it on national television.
The Balls continue to do something completely different. They think (or at least LaVar thinks) that they can have their own brand. Now they do. With yesterday’s news they’ve officially done two things that athletes love – done something on their own and given people with money something expensive to buy.
Big Baller Brand is goofy, but it is also something new and different. Coming from a different world and only being a brand for a short period of time… How is Big Baller Brand doing? Is it doing okay? They made a shoe! Hey! They made a shoe! Can you believe it?
This will resonate with athletes. These guys are all in various systems where they are supposed to do the same thing the same way every day. The Balls are challenging a system. Players who speak out or try to do something different don’t always win in public, but they usually have the support of their peers. They might not agree, but they probably respect it.
Personally, the sports shoe business seems like one of the most democratic things athletes deal with. Everybody has to wear shoes. Everybody gets shoes. The bigger your star or visibility, the more you get paid. It’s not like fancy watches or soft drinks where only the stars get endorsements. If LaVar Ball was challenging NCAA and amateurism instead of our beloved brands, we might take him more seriously, but we almost might give him less attention.
Maybe the most simple thing he’s done is set the price point so ridiculously high on these horrible sneakers that they (maybe) unintentionally created something that certain people would buy for status or irony. (People with too much money love buying bad footwear.) These shoes are basically the Fyre Festival of Feet. Why would anyone want to pay $12,000 to go camping and see Blink-182 in 2017? Because it cost so much money it must be awesome. Even if its not, the failure is a big hit on social media.
Do we really need examples of athletes buying things that make no sense?
Does any of that make less sense – or cost less money – than Lonzo Ball’s shoes?
LaVar Ball isn’t a marketing genius, but he’s stumbled onto something. Big Baller Brand footwear probably won’t work in the long run. Lonzo Ball will definitely make less on his own that he could have at one of the actual shoe companies, but someone in the future will try – and succeed to pull off – something like this. In the meantime, we’ll keep obsessing over the latest thing LaVar Ball has done. And people will buy these shoes. It probably won’t be a lot, but it will be enough for him to try this again. Or at least enough to lie and say it was a success. That’s how we do things in America these days.