The most infamous father in basketball is not unlike Donald Trump in that he’s cracked the code to fame and relevance in these modern times.
Our latest example: The unveiling of Lonzo Ball’s $500 signature sneaker on Thursday, weeks before the NBA draft and months before the young player will appear in an NBA game.
But it’s LaVar Ball who may yet have the last laugh.
When the “ZO2” line was unveiled online Thursday, it was immediately and thoroughly mocked on Twitter. And for good reason. The primary shoe costs $495 (and the Lonzo-autographed version is $995). Hell the flip-flops are $220 (and, yes, we wish we were joking.)
More ridiculous still, per the Big Baller Brand website, the shoes won’t even be available until November 24. You can order them now, though but be aware there are no refunds or exchanges. So, to recap: You can spend $495 for a shoe that won’t arrive until at least November and you cannot return if it doesn’t fit right.
Twitter, of course, got right to roasting.
Shaquille O’Neal, whose signature shoes sell for cheap at Walmart, even joined the conversation with a shot at LaVar that was retweeted 27,000 times in two hours.
Lonzo Ball is a point guard who just finished his one and only season at UCLA. He’s all but assured to be a top-five pick in next month’s NBA Draft and could indeed become a future star. LaVar, meanwhile, is Lonzo’s dad.
LaVar shot to prominence toward the end of the UCLA season, when he gave bombastic interview after bombastic interview. He called out Lonzo’s UCLA teammates, said he could’ve beaten Michael Jordan one-on-one back in the day, dissed LeBron James’ kids. The list goes on.
All of this became catnip to the media, with LaVar appearing again and again in national online, TV and radio outlets. LaVar sounds like a jerk if you believe the guy who coached his two younger sons in high school last season but he won’t shut up and the sports world just can’t ignore him.
He’s put a spell over the media and public in a way not unlike Trump did during last year’s presidential election and Republican primary. Don’t believe me?
While everyone was roasting Lonzo’s shoes, they were also raising the visibility of LaVar’s Big Baller brand. On what was a pretty massive news day in the real world, “Lonzo,” “LaVar,” and “#BigBallerBrand” were simultaneously three of the top seven Twitter trends in the U.S.
So yes, LaVar Ball has cracked to code to American fame in 2017:
And most of all, just be there, loudly, whenever the media calls and often when it doesn’t.
Sound familiar? All this helped get a reality TV star elected president not so long ago.
“You have to respect LaVar being entrepreneurial, betting on himself and trying to build a business,” Jason Stein, CEO of the agency Laundry Service, told ESPN.com. “He’s a larger than life character and generating a ton of attention. The shoes are nothing special and grossly overpriced, but I suspect that’s intentional. In the context of building a brand his brand it’s working.”
Time will tell if LaVar and the Balls can parlay infamy into dollars, but their pater familias certainly has the first part down. And, as former NBA star Stephon Marbury pointed out on Twitter, only 2,000 pairs of ZO2’s need to sell to gross $1 million.
Paying $495 for some sneakers might seem ridiculous to you, because it is. But stranger things have certainly happened in these surreal times, where LaVar Ball is right at home.
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