April 28, 2017 BY John Kim
There’s an old saying – “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”. That phrase has evolved over time, as news and headlines get disseminated far quicker in the digital age, with opinions forming just as quickly. LaVar Ball, father to Lonzo and two other sons, has been relentless in his efforts of keeping the Ball name relevant, but he’s done so in the worst ways possible.
For the uninitiated: LaVar Ball is father to Lonzo as well as two other sons LiAngelo and LaMelo; LiAngelo is committed to UCLA and will begin playing this Fall, while son LaMelo, a sophomore at Chino Hills HS, is verbally committed to the school. LaVar is a Los Angeles native and is passionate about his sons playing only for the UCLA Bruins and, if possible, the Los Angeles Lakers.
Lonzo Ball is regarded as one of the top prizes in this year’s NBA Draft, with ongoing comparisons of his game to those of NBA legends Magic Johnson and Jason Kidd. In short: he’s really good. The UCLA freshman kept his head down and played a full season for the Bruins in impressive fashion, putting together an outstanding campaign that could very well translate easily in the pro ranks. The hype, on a basketball standpoint, was seemingly real, and hype alone is enough to make one a superstar.
Back in March, LaVar Ball became a household name thanks to his remark about Lonzo being a better basketball player than two-time MVP Steph Curry. At this point, LaVar was simply viewed as a supportive father doing nothing but generating hype around his son’s name. It was a rather shrewd move as it flipped Lonzo into a household name, and from there the comical statements continued, giving sports journalists some content when there wasn’t any real sports reporting to be done.
Above: Lonzo, LaMelo, and LiAngelo, sons of LaVar Ball
While LaVar’s comparisons of his son with Steph Curry, LeBron James, and Russell Westbrook were somewhat innocuous, his other claims shifted the image of the Ball family name into one of cockiness and lack of self-awareness. He claimed that he could beat Michael Jordan, at their primes, in a game of one-on-one, despite LaVar average 2.2 points per game at the college level. He blamed “white guys” for UCLA being knocked out of the Elite Eight round. He believed his sons would be worth $1 billion for a shoe deal. He started Big Baller Brand, a poorly designed athletic-based clothing line that likely sells one t-shirt a month. It’s this barrage of stupidity that placed an extremely negative light on himself and even his sons, forcing the general public to overlook the fact that the three boys can actually hoop at a high level. Even George Raveling, one of the most influential men in the business of basketball and an exec at Nike, called LaVar “the worst thing to happen to basketball in one hundred years”.
Now here’s how LaVar literally threw away millions of dollars; Nike, adidas, and Under Armour are all interested in signing Lonzo. It’s an ongoing battle among the three footwear giants to sign the most promising names, and Lonzo’s projected success in the NBA alone is worth a sit-down meeting. Rookie shoe deals aren’t what they once were because the basketball shoe business is plummeting. Just last year, Ben Simmons, whose NBA ceiling is generally regarded to be higher than that of Lonzo, received a 5-year $20 million dollar contract from Nike.
It’s safe to assume that if any of the three brands were seriously interested in Lonzo, they would have offered a similar package (most certainly less in dollar amounts) for a “standard” rookie shoe deal, a deal that many expected Lonzo to receive. That’s millions of dollars in the bank for wearing shoes on an NBA court and appearing in a few ads – the absolute dream for anyone who takes basketball seriously.
Above: Ben Simmons, the 2016 1st overall pick
Instead, LaVar not only insisted on Big Baller Brand being licensed by whichever company decided to sign his son, but even went as far as offering shoe design mock-ups that LaVar claims to have been working on since the day Lonzo was born. Licensing a brand or a player has occurred once in NBA history. That player was Michael Jordan, and it didn’t happen until 1998, when MJ already won the bulk of his rings and his status as the greatest basketball player of all-time was cemented.
LaVar attempted to leverage the self-generated hype in order to get a similar return from Nike/adidas/Under Armour despite the fact that Lonzo has yet to dribble a basketball on an NBA hardwood floor. It appears that big three brands were so turned off by LaVar’s pitch that they chose to pass on Lonzo completely.
Instead of the three brands engaging in a small bidding war for this impressive talent, all three kicked LaVar and Lonzo to the curb. Had Lonzo hired a legitimate agent who was aware of the business and the hype, Lonzo would have, without question, a multi-million dollar shoe deal on his lap and the legend of Lonzo would have begun.
This has never occurred in the history of shoe deals. Nike, adidas, and Under Armour are billion dollar brands that have very strict and specific ideals and operate on the conservative end. LaVar’s behavior has made such a significant impact that these industry giants, who in part thrive from being represented by top level athletes, want nothing to do with him or his sons. It really is time for LaVar to take a backseat and cheer from the sidelines before he makes Lonzo and his sons the most hated athletes in all of sports.
Filed under: Celebrity Feet