Lavar Ball released his new shoe today. No idea who’s going to make it, or who made the prototype he showed off. For all we know the man “who never lost a one-on-one game” put them together in his garage.
The “ZO2” shoe from Big Baller Brand sells for a cool 495 dollars, $695 if you’re a size 14 or higher (like me, and like a lot of taller basketball types who would seem to be part of the market). A pair of slides are also offered for a mere $220. That means, before Lonzo has even been drafted by the league, he will have the NBA’s most expensive shoe.
Now I don’t claim to know much about the sneakerhead world, and I certainly don’t get it. I see people spending more on shoes than a playstation, and then they barely wear them (if at all). When they do, they walk around in fear of a wayward smudge. Weird. I see a pair of shoes I like, with a price I like, and I buy them. I think the most i’ve ever paid for a pair of shoes was 80 bucks. Then again, I’m not a fashion icon, and I respect the swag.
With Lavar entering the shoe market without a traditional partner (Nike, Under Armour, etc), he’s blazing a trail. I respect that as well. No issues at all with trying to get around on the big shoe dynasties and keeping more of that cheese for yourself. That’s not my issue.
- Note that I’ve been saying “Lavar released the shoe, Lavar did this, and Lavar did that”. There’s something wrong here. Sure, sports has a history of Dads (and Moms) that saw fit to shepherd their sons through the beginnings of the business side of their career, gradually handing over the reigns. Archie Manning was very active in both Peyton and especially Eli’s lives early on in the NFL, but that gave way fairly quickly. Also, Archie had gone through the NFL cheese grater, and had a real understanding of how things work. Lavar played college ball.
- When sending out a tweet announcing the shoe, Lavar also said “If you can’t afford (the shoes), you’re NOT a Big Baller!!” Well Lavar, that takes care of a TON of your core audience. Hey kids, if you can’t drop 500 bucks on a pair of shoes, you’re inferior and low-rent and people will laugh at you!!! Its a shame that a man born and raised in Compton feels so comfortable denigrating a probably majority of his possible market due to economic level. Which is fine. Brands do this all the time. In many cases the more exclusive, the more expensive the brand, the more sought after it is. But you have to know your audience. I think Lavar knows the audience he WANTS, but in reality we are talking about a shoe more expensive than Lebrons, Kobes and any other player that’s already done big things in the NBA.
- But the thing that scares me the most is Lavar’s utter dominance over all things Lonzo Ball. The extreme narcissism and sense of self-importance has almost gotten to a numbing point, like its no longer a shock or surprise anymore. But there’s a deeper question here- how can a team expect Lonzo Ball to be their leader on the floor when he’s not even the leader in his own life? I’ve barely heard the kid talk, and when I have, he has none of the bravado or aggression that his father does. That could certainly be viewed as a positive, but at some point the kid has to say “Dad, enough is enough”. It isn’t Lavar that will have to deal with savvy and jealous veterans determined to embarrass this kid. What Lavar HAS succeeded in doing is making his son polarizing, despite the fact that all Lonzo is guilty of is being in his Dad’s shadow.
I am a parent. And one of the first things I learned is that each parent has their own ways, their own methods. Unless in circumstances of abuse, I don’t think anyone has a right to tell another how to parent their kids. Many children don’t have a father in the household, so the respect I have for Lavar and the time he has put into ensuring that at least one of his sons will be a multimillionaire is massive. Good on him. But I can’t shake the fact that he’s treating his kids like stocks, like possessions, and is laying waste to any and all that get in his way.
Someone asked me today why we in the media keep giving Lavar Ball attention. The answer is nuanced. Whenever I hear people complain about the state of sports or news coverage, or the junky reality shows that dominate the airwaves, I generally fire back by telling them its their fault. Maybe not their fault, but the bottom line- if people don’t watch/read/listen, the media won’t cover it. There’s a reason why high school sports don’t lead off sportscasts. Ask any focus group if they’d like to see more coverage of youth sports, or “feel good” stories, and the yes crowd will number in the 90s. STRONGLY in favor. But they don’t pull ratings. People just don’t really care. They DO care about Lonzo Ball and Khloe Kardashian and two men screaming at each other while sitting at a table.
The other reason I believe the media is giving Ball so much attention? We’ve never seen this before. Not with Archie, not with Jack Elway, not even with Marv Marinovich.
Either Lavar Ball and his three boys are going to have the last laugh all the way to the bank, and go down as trailblazers (the pioneer type, not the team), or we are witnessing an insecure and irrelevant father living out his dreams through his child. And to be clear, this is a form of abuse. When a parent puts their needs ahead of what’s best for their own child, that’s not a good thing. That’s a car wreck.
And everyone loves a good car wreck.
Good luck, Lonzo. You’re gonna need it.