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Plenty of NBA players serve as endorsers, but none bear the weight of their brand quite like Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball. Every time he takes the court, he’s a full-on ambassador for Big Baller Brand, the shoe and apparel company founded by his father Lavar. Lonzo is Big Baller Brand, and Big Baller Brand is Lonzo. No other player in the league wears the brand, and it runs the risk of becoming something of a joke if Ball doesn’t thrive as a Laker.
So it was pretty surprising to see Lonzo not wearing his signature ZO2 sneakers for Wednesday night’s Las Vegas Summer League Play-in Round game against the Philadelphia 76ers. Instead, Lonzo was wearing a pair of Kobe Bryant’s signature Nike sneakers:
It’s not clear what caused Lonzo to wear Nike, but not wearing Big Baller Brand in just his third Summer League appearance certainly raised some eyebrows. Had he tired of his signature shoe? Is he waiting until November for a fresh pair? Or had LaVar told him he wasn’t enough of a baller to wear them?
Whatever the reason, Ball didn’t seem to mind playing in Nike. In fact, he starred in what was by far his best Summer League performance to date.
He started things off with some incredible full-court assists:
Then, after going scoreless in the first quarter, he simply took over the game. Ball finished with a game-high 36 points (12-of-22 FG, 3-of-10 3FG, 9-of-12 FT), 11 assists, and five steals (plus eight rebounds). If that’s not enough, he led the Lakers to a 103-102 comeback win.
Summer League is not a good predictor of future success (or failure), but it can be a venue for players to show the skills that will serve them well in the NBA. At the very least, Wednesday’s game showed why Ball is so hyped as a basketball player, not just the son of a media sensation. He pushed the ball in transition, exhibited excellent court vision, and took control when necessary. There were mistakes (including six turnovers), but he looked like the best talent on the court by some distance. That’s worth something, even if it’s not much.
Ball and the Lakers return to the court Thursday for a Round of 16 game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. He might not score 36 points again, but it’s safe to say he’ll be the guy everyone’s watching.
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