Browse all

Big Ballers

About how the Ball family is getting ready to conquer the NBA

Big Ballers About how the Ball family is getting ready to conquer the NBA

We’ve talked about it so many times, in modern days NBA brands have become way more than mere partners for the league, the franchises, and the players, but are true and proper economic factors that the Association can’t exclude. But if we already are used to seeing NBA superstars’ names bonded to the biggest brands’ ones - just look at the lifetime agreement between Nike and LeBron James - it’s still surprising how this dynamics also influence young players. Yes, we’re talking about the Ball family.

Dad LaVar and mom Tina are both former college basketball players, and they passed down their passion to their three sons, Lonzo - player for the UCLA Bruins and candidate to become first pick at the next NBA Draft - LaMelo, who dropped 92 points in an High School game, and LiAngelo, also an interesting future prospectus. All the Ball family has become some sort of media phenomenon in the US, especially because of the many strong statements made by LaVar, who’s taking the concept of “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” to new levels.


Ball Sr., in fact, has decided that his son will not just be picked at the next Draft becoming a professional player, but will also be the superstar of the next generation, called to compare himself with the best players ever. He also made some uncomfortable comparisons for the young Lonzo that, according to his father, “Will be a better player than Steph Curry” and “Alongside with his brothers will definitely participate in some All-Star Games”. Statements that, as bold as they come, are still provocations which won’t be confirmed or denied until one (or more) of his sons will, in fact, become an NBA player. 

Something that Mr. Ball doesn’t joke about, is everything related to his son Lonzo and the whole family’s brand. Among the many slams he said in the last weeks, LaVar also declared to pretend at least one billion from the brands to have the privilege to work with his son Lonzo. At the time, the statement got a smile out of many people, but LaVar wasn’t joking at all. A few days later, in fact, has leaked the news that the three major sports brands in the US - adidas, Nike and Under Armour - all stepped back from recruiting Lonzo Ball, giving up on endorsing UCLA prospectus.


It can appear insignificant, but the fact that the three major companies give up on endorsing what could become the next first pick in the NBA Draft should make you think. The reason behind the surrender came soon enough, straight trough LaVar Ball’s words: "We've said from the beginning, we aren't looking for an endorsement deal. We're looking for co-branding, a true partner. But they're not ready for that because they're not used to that model. But hey, the taxi industry wasn't ready for Uber, either”

LaVar Ball’s request, for those who doesn’t know it had very specific reasons. In fact, former UCLA already founded a family brand - the Big Ballers Brand - which he wanted to brand all the three sons’ careers - that, as you may have understood, he thinks can be high-ended - with. As some sort of Jordan brand within Nike, Ball Sr. dreamed of a partnership with a big company that could grow the BBB brand for him. It looks like he also showed up at the informal meetings with the brands bringing a prototype of his son Lonzo’s first signature shoe. The reaction of the three companies can be summarized in George Raveling’s, Nike consultant, words: “LaVar Ball is the worst thing to happen to basketball in the last hundred years”.


Mr. Ball’s reaction was quick, as yesterday came out the news about the release of the ZO2s, Big Ballers Brand’s first signature shoes for Lonzo Ball. Something like, if you don’t want to make the shoes for me, I’ll do it myself. Of course, sa va sans dire, ZO2s’ launch was made with style, with a video presentation made by SLAM Magazine. What left people speechless, besides the design of the sneaker that is entirely personal, is its prize of 495$, that can rise up to 695$ for bigger sizes and to 995$ for a pair of shoes autographed by Lonzo Ball himself. If you’re interested, there also are a pair of ZO2-branded slippers for just 220$.

Of course, those figures were harshly criticized, even if, as always, LaVar found a way to justify them: “Lonzo’s signature sneaker aim to tap into a new market—above the athletic performance kicks from the likes of Nike, Jordan, Adidas and Under Armour, but below the high-end designer shoes of Gucci, Prada or Louis Vuitton”. Whatever the explanation may be, is still is a very expensive shoe and also Shaq, who’s not famous for being shy, said his opinion explicitly: “Real big baller brands don't over charge kids for shoes”. Ball’s response? “If you can't afford the ZO2'S, you're not a Big Baller.


Besides the personal likings - and believe me, there are many people which like Ball - this event should make us think about the kind of players that this economic system is producing, especially in the youngest ages. Lonzo Ball has to be drafted yet from an NBA team and has already a heavy weight on his shoulders for all this visibility. And even if the boy doesn’t seem so different from his father in terms of self-confidence, soon or later he will crush with the reality of a hyper-professionalized league where there’s no room for mistakes.

What’s more, beyond all the commercial and image considerations, Lonzo Ball is entering in the Association after that his father has already stepped on many uncomfortable toes. People like Michael Jordan, Stephen Curry, LeBron James - whom LaVar had a nasty verbal crossfire with - and many others. That’s not the kind of ideal presentation for a kid that already has all the pressure on his shoulders. We still have the hope that in the end will prevale what matter the most, basketball, and that Lonzo can confirm himself strong as his father says on the field, where the shoes you’re wearing doesn’t matter that much. And then yes, we will see if he truly is a Big Baller.