For the biggest basketball prospects, those on the verge of lighting up the NBA before they're even legally able to drink, a lucrative shoe deal with a global brand is the first step toward superstardom. But not for Lonzo Ball.
The highly-skilled point guard, who's left UCLA after one season, is putting out a shoe under his own brand. Released this week, the shoe's price tag is a whopping $495, and if you've been paying attention to sports media at all in the past month, you already know who's behind this: Lonzo's outspoken father, Lavar Ball.
Out of no where, Lavar Ball has emerged this year as the most reviled man in sports, thanks to his bombast, ego and inability to shut up. The elder Ball, who has two more sons on their way to UCLA, reportedly tried to land a $1 billion sneaker deal for all three of his boys. Somehow, he found no takers. He was also unable to set up a partnership with a sneaker company that allowed him to put out kicks under his own Three Ballers Brand.
Of course, Ball isn't backing down. He's not just standing by the pricing of the sneakers, he's arguing that if you can't afford them, you have no one to blame but yourself.
Ball is hard to stomach, but he might be on to something. In the video up top, Lonzo Ball explains the idea behind the family going it alone with its own sneakers. "It's up to us to put forward a movement that empowers not only ourselves, but our families and our communities as well. A movement that allows us to claim what's our, to claim what we've been working so hard for," he says. "A movement allowing us to be entrepreneurs, not just endorsers."
There's a lot to like about this ethos. The Balls are refusing to be shackled by a major sneaker company and work as an employee. Instead, they're becoming owners.
Of course, as admirable as that is in theory, it's unclear if it'll work in practice. Are people really going to buy these things? Even without the crazy price tag, Ball isn't doing much to engender support among sports fans. Yes, he gets attention—why else would he put a $495 pice tag on these shoes—but attention isn't the same as sales.