LaVar Ball’s nascent company, Big Baller Brand, unveiled its new line of shoes, and while some noted that the centerpiece sneaker was fairly well designed, most were taken aback by the price tag: $495. That jarring figure was the talk of sports Internet on Thursday, which is, of course, exactly what Ball wanted.
All the folks, including prominent athletes and sports journalists, mocking the insanely high prices of Big Baller footwear, including $220 slides? Just fine by Ball.
Big Baller’s loose! If you can’t afford the ZO2’S, you’re NOT a BIG BALLER!
— Lavar Ball (@Lavarbigballer) May 4, 2017
The important thing was, as noted, the BBB product launch dominated the sports world Thursday, even as the NBA playoffs were in full swing. And that happened because of, not despite, the seemingly ludicrous prices involved.
Once again, Ball showed that he is shameless — and smart. He hasn’t exactly started with nothing, but he has been extremely savvy in the way he has leveraged the rise to fame of his son Lonzo.
Think about it: In October, Lonzo Ball was barely a blip on the national radar, never mind his father. Lonzo’s success as a UCLA freshman, which has him poised to be a top-three pick in June’s NBA draft, ensured that he would emerge from the season well-known, but thanks to LaVar’s non-stop braggadocio and ability to provoke high-profile feuds, they’re both now essentially household names in the sports world.
I actually thought “Lavar Ball” was smart until I saw the price they’d be charging for those sneakers. He looks like a true idiot now.
— Brandon King (@BrandonKing4787) May 5, 2017
By drawing so much attention to himself, LaVar Ball has created an enormous amount of awareness for Big Baller Brand. Just as an example, this blog has now written 18 posts about him, all since March, when his claim that Lonzo will be a better NBA player than two-time MVP Steph Curry caught the attention of Charles Barkley.
Sure, much of the commentary, here at The Post and elsewhere, has either implicitly or overtly taken the stance that Ball is something of a buffoon. Do you think he cares? We’re all talking about him, right? You’re reading this, right?
The reception Thursday of the BBB product launch was a perfect case in point. Mockery and/or criticism of the $495 shoes was all over the virtual place, including from the Twitter account of none other than Shaquille O’Neal, who noted his own, much more kid-friendly brand of low-price sneakers. Stephon Marbury, he of the famously $14.98 Starburys, also weighed in.
— SHAQ (@SHAQ) May 4, 2017
There’s a message in selling shoes for 14.98. It’s not about the shoes https://t.co/mv84SONrCo
— I AM PEACE STAR (@StarburyMarbury) May 4, 2017
Before his Warriors tipped off against the Jazz in Game 2 of their Western Conference semifinals series, Golden State interim head coach Mike Brown fielded a question about the shoes. He had a good laugh, but Ball was likely smiling, as well.
Mike Brown says he won’t be buying LaVar Ball’s $500 signature LO2’s…or his $200 pair of flip flops pic.twitter.com/HZwhGchwBA
— KNBR (@KNBR) May 5, 2017
All sorts of NFL players — with many thousands of social-media followers — took advantage of their offseason down time to take shots at the expensive footwear.
— Golden Tate (@ShowtimeTate) May 4, 2017
Pumped to announce I’m coming out with a signature kicking shoe with #BBB it’s going to be $9000 for a pair. Pretty reasonable.
— Johnny Hekker (@JHekker) May 4, 2017
$500.00 for a basketball sneaker… like be reeeeal pic.twitter.com/w6WzmpGxK3
— Jerry hughes (@Iam_jerryhughes) May 4, 2017
— Kyle (@Ky1eLong) May 4, 2017
These $495 shoes can kick rocks lol
— Cam Heyward (@CamHeyward) May 5, 2017
If I’m spending 495$ I’m going to get some Gucci’s
— Brian Poole (@JustPooleN_It) May 5, 2017
Hate all y’all want, these clean but not $500 clean pic.twitter.com/lFHoBvGsex
— LeGarrette Blount (@LG_Blount) May 5, 2017
Other NFL figures were more complimentary. Chad Johnson and Arian Foster announced that they had already made purchases, while Michael Bennett praised Ball’s entrepreneurial instincts.
i support the ambition and the road less traveled. much love to the ball family. pic.twitter.com/6SZ1EI2BhG
— Feeno (@ArianFoster) May 4, 2017
I dropped $500 on Lonzo Ball, the shoes just happen to come with it‼️ https://t.co/SP7MIad4sU
— Chad Johnson (@ochocinco) May 4, 2017
@Lavarbigballer I will buy 2 pair I respect what u doing
— Michael Bennett (@mosesbread72) May 5, 2017
— Michael Bennett (@mosesbread72) May 5, 2017
Even the many people, athletes and otherwise, clowning Ball for thinking he could charge so much for his son’s signature shoe were doing him a favor. Ball is aiming for a market, one he might just be creating on the fly, between the prices set by major brands, such as Nike and Adidas, and luxury-goods manufacturers such as Louis Vuitton and Prada. It’s important to Ball that as many people as possible know that his company’s shoes cost $500, and if word gets out by way of ridiculing comments, that’ll work.
What many people seem to be underestimating is how many sneaker-loving consumers will want to own a pair of athletic shoes that are notorious for their price tag. It’s a “status symbol” thing, as anyone familiar with the handbag industry could tell you.
At the BBB prices, the Balls won’t even have to sell a huge number of shoes to turn a tidy profit, especially considering the small size of the company. But make no mistake, there are going to be people out there who will want to let others know that they can afford $500 sneakers.
It is true that LaVar Ball is banking a huge amount of his brand on Lonzo’s continued success. If the 19-year-old flops in the NBA, Big Baller Brand could quickly turn into an even bigger joke than many currently perceive it as being.
On the other hand, Ball has two more sons, both excellent basketball players in their own rights, making their way to the college level and, presumably as soon as possible, the pros. And, hey, it’s not like the price for the “ZO2″ can’t drop and still leave plenty of room for making it a worthwhile venture.
Meanwhile, even Dick Vitale was moved to crack wise about the kicks — to his nearly 900,000 Twitter followers. Ball’s shamelessly expensive shoes may not be for everyone, but he’ll happily take all the free advertising he got Thursday, from seemingly everywhere.