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In today’s episode of “As LaVar Ball’s World Turns,” the blowhard father of UCLA guard and likely top-two NBA draft pick Lonzo Ball might have cost his son as much as $20 million before his 25th birthday.
That’s right. Nike, Under Armour and Adidas were all prepared to offer Lonzo a shoe contract in the neighborhood of $10 million over five years before the Los Angeles Lakers landed the No. 2 pick in the draft lottery, and that sum might have jumped as high as $20 million through 2022 if Ball landed in the L.A. media market, ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell reported on “The Dan Patrick Show.”
LaVar originally sought a 10-year, $1 billion shoe deal for the son he has described as, in some respects, superior to Stephen Curry, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. When the big three shoe companies never entertained his offer, the elder Ball released Lonzo’s signature ZO2 shoe under his own Big Baller Brand for the low, low starting price of $495. And even Shaquille O’Neal found that ridiculous.
The Balls reportedly sold all of 300 pairs, many of which likely went for a gag, in the immediate aftermath of a media circus surrounding an unproven 19-year-old charging as much as Jordan, Curry and LeBron James do combined for a pair of sneakers. Rovell had some thoughts on that, too:
“People don’t want to give him credit for the fact that he was not dumb to create this $500 shoe, which is coming out on Nov. 24, because he has to order the shoes, because he’s not going to have it in a discount store, because it’s custom-ordered, and he could make a small order, and that’s $500,” Rovell told Patrick’s listeners. “It’s basically the least he could have it, because if only five people ordered shoes, it might be $300 a pair to make, so he’s figured that out. He’s smarter than people give him credit for, and he’s a better talker than people give him credit for.”
Well, that’s a whole lot to unpack. First of all, good job plugging the release date of the shoes, Darren.
Also, we’re supposed to give LaVar credit for charging $500 when limited orders could cost as much as $300 a pair? Naturally, the more shoes they sell, the better deal they’ll get from the manufacturer, but under the scenario Rovell laid out the Balls would net all of $60,000 from opening-day sales — only slightly less than the $2 million annually Lonzo would be earning from Nike, Under Armour or Adidas.
Now, as for the claim, “He’s a better talker than people give him credit for,” that’s debatable, what with LaVar telling FS1 “The Herd with Colin Cowherd” co-host Kristine Leahy to “stay in [her] lane,” then selling “STAY IN YO LANE” T-shirts on his website and wearing one to coach another son’s much-hyped 50-point AAU loss over the weekend. All that seems like neither good talking nor good business.
Finally, Rovell suggested LaVar return to Nike, Under Armour and Adidas seeking a more lucrative shoe deal now that Lonzo could end up playing for his hometown Lakers in the NBA’s second-largest media market. LaVar being LaVar, he told Cowherd, “I’m a genius. That’s why I don’t admit mistakes,” and instead sought $3 billion just for a shoe company to partner with his Big Baller Brand. Genius, indeed.
For the record, Nike gave LeBron James $93 million out of high school in 2003 and $20 million plus incentives that could double that figure for No. 1 pick Ben Simmons just last year. Shockingly, it doesn’t seem as though LaVar and the shoe companies see eye to eye on his son’s earning potential.
While LaVar has said, “There’s nobody else we need to work out for,” besides the Lakers, Lonzo has said he’d rather play in L.A. than be the No. 1 pick (which comes with its own opportunity cost of $3.3 million in lost earnings over the next four years) — backing up that claim by turning down a workout with the Boston Celtics — and everybody assumes he’ll end up being selected second, there does seem to be some concern among the Balls that their dream scenario may not pan out as expected. Why else would they be talking to the Philadelphia 76ers (picking third) about a pre-draft workout?
The next four media markets drafting behind Philadelphia are Phoenix, Sacramento, Orlando and Minnesota — in that order. If Lonzo ever fell out of the top three, what happens to that old $10 million shoe offer? Knowing LaVar, he’ll probably start asking for $5 billion, because he is a genius, after all.
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