The Ball family just knows how to stay in the news cycle. After creating a social media frenzy with the announcement of his $495 signature sneaker, the ZO2’s under the Big Baller Brand, Lonzo Ball has put himself back on the market in hopes of receiving a traditional sneaker deal—which he also hopes will ignite a bidding war.
After wearing the Z02’s the first two games of Summer League, Ball hooped in the Nike A.D., Adidas Harden Vol. 1 lifestyle model, Under Armour Curry 4 and the Air Jordan XXX1 low to finish off Summer League. “At Big Baller Brand you know you got freedom, do whatever you want, and I’m showcasing that,” he told ESPN.
LaVar Ball followed Lonzo’s statement with a message of his own to ESPN’s Darren Rovell. “It’s making a statement to the brands of what they could have had with an open mind,” Ball told Rovell. “The players are the brand ambassadors. The brand is nothing without the players.”
LaVar has always said from the beginning that they weren't looking for an endorsement deal but a co-branding partner. Think Nike and Michael Jordan but instead with an incoming rookie who has not played a single minute in the NBA.
Don’t get it twisted, beyond the antics from his father, Lonzo Ball is a dream coup for a brand. He is a lot like a young Penny Hardaway. He is 6’6”, a box office hit, and is blessed with God-given passing abilities. He is also quiet with the media but can hold his own like Penny when it comes to commercials like this Foot Locker Father’s Day spot.
There are many factors why Lonzo may be pursuing a shoe deal outside the house that LaVar built. Maybe the ZO2’s did not perform well on the court. Maybe the Ball family did not get that much love in the sales department.
If Lonzo does land a deal outside of BBB, this may turn out to be one of the biggest sneaker comeups in history or simply just plain dumb. I broke down how Lonzo may fit with some of marquee brands down below.
This seems like a long shot. Once you burn a bridge with the Swoosh, I am not sure there is a return. Back in April, Nike global basketball sports marketing director, George Raveling, made headlines after saying LaVar Ball is the “Worst thing to happen to basketball in the last hundred years.” LaVar quickly responded through TMZ and said, "I know I’m on the right step, 'cause if nothing like this happened in 100 years?" "Guess what—we in a new lane, baby!" He added, "Big Baller Brand about to be your competition."
That last line might have pulled the plug on any future deal with Nike. Nike’s founder Phil Knight said the brand had interest in Lonzo, but $1 billion seems a bit steep. To be clear, Nike does not need Lonzo and will be fine without him because they have basketball's best sneaker roster, with LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Paul George. I'm not sure where there is a fit with the Swoosh for Lonzo.
One thing to note is that Lonzo did have his best Summer League game while wearing a pair of Kobe’s. Que the petty LeBron Instagram post.
A partnership with Adidas would feel like a more natural fit, since the brand has an outstanding youth movement and a campaign dedicated to athletes who are outside the box. Lonzo wore Adidas in high school at Chino Hills and during his one season at UCLA, so maybe there is a chance that he can open up that dialogue and try to work out a deal.
Having Lonzo alongside James Harden, Damian Lillard and other young prospects like Andrew Wiggins, Kristaps Porzingis and Joel Embiid would create a fun group. But with Lonzo comes the package deal. Does Adidas want to shell out more money for Lonzo while also having to deal with LaVar and his two other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo in the future?
Under Armour would be a great destination for Lonzo, with possibly more upside than the other brands because UA is still trying to find its identity in the NBA. There is not much after Stephen Curry and Lonzo could fit right in and grow under his wing. UA took a big gamble with Steph and it paid off for them, and they need to take the same approach with a young prospect if they want to compete in the long run.
The brand recently signed Phoenix Suns rookie Josh Jackson but he is not as marketable as Lonzo, who plays point guard for the most entertaining franchise in NBA history. While the Lakers may not good, all eyes will be on Lonzo and his sneakers, whether they win 50 games or 10 this upcoming season.
Another link will be UA’s founder, Kevin Plank, who understands what it is like to start his own brand from his parking garage. Plank has taken UA to impossible heights and can give Lonzo his own space to operate and grow within the brand. He comes from a similar background and might be prepared to deal with LaVar’s antics.
It is also a good sign that Curry sent Lonzo a pair of Curry 4’s to rock during Summer League. The sneakers don’t release until the fall, so there might have been some kind of dialogue there between the brand and the Ball family. So maybe Steph let LaVar slide with the comments about Lonzo being better than him.
International brands have always been lenient when it comes to handing out signature sneakers to average players like Delly and George Hill. So having one of the best point guard prospects will cause some interests. Unless one of these brands cave in and offer millions of dollars, Lonzo is best staying put to build his own brand. He has already surpassed each brands popularity in the United States in terms of footwear. If such a deal takes place you can bet that they will give the BBB free reign to do whatever they want in terms of licensing and product.
I personally don’t think Lonzo will sign with any brand this upcoming season unless something crazy happening to a Z02 during a game. Despite not playing in his sneakers majority of Summer League, his sneaker fling caused major attention and hate from some athletes like JJ Watt and Elena Delle Donne. Maybe this is one big marketing ploy from the mind of LaVar and we all fell for it... again.