Lonzo Ball’s $495 Big Baller Brand shoes have drawn plenty of comment over the past few months, especially with the various stunts his father LaVar has pulled to promote them, but the most interesting moment yet may have come Wednesday.
With his Lakers in Summer League action against the Philadelphia 76ers, Lonzo opted to wear not his own pricey signature shoe, but rather a pair of Nike Kobe ADs (which Nike itself sells for $160, and which can be found cheaper elsewhere). And he then overcame his early Summer League struggles and went on to have his best game of the event, posting a team-high 36 points (on 12-of-22 shooting) with 11 assists and eight rebounds. That led to plenty of people lighting Big Baller Brand up, perhaps most notably Nike-signed LeBron James (who was sitting courtside):
And the 76ers’ Ben Simmons’ liked that comment and weighed in himself:
— Himji Shaq (@Shaqdaddy231) July 13, 2017
There were plenty of others bashing Lonzo, and lots chiming in on how LaVar would take this:
— Joey Barker Cincotta (@mrcrackkills) July 13, 2017
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) July 13, 2017
i just wanted to make a video with the Jaws theme over LaVar's scheme face for future nights where Lonzo goes off and trolls ok bye pic.twitter.com/8f0YrqXgRe
— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) July 13, 2017
Wait so he's giving Nike free advertising and they're not even paying him?! Lonzo getting hustled as we speak https://t.co/82BN4a4WyM
— Velvet Hoop (@SirTreyBall) July 13, 2017
The best part might be that Big Baller Brand’s Twitter account tried to promote Lonzo’s play, and got mocked:
Built For This. pic.twitter.com/0MyxiIenYz
— Big Baller Brand (@bigballerbrand) July 13, 2017
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) July 13, 2017
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) July 13, 2017
the zo2s clearly weren’t built for this #KOBE8SBESTBBALLSHOE
— M I K E♛ (@mikemaloney015) July 13, 2017
Big Ballers rock Nike? Guess I'll go buy some Kobe's
— David (@DavidMezaTweets) July 13, 2017
As for Lonzo, he explained his decision to John Buccigross on SportsCenter later:
“At Triple B, you can wear whatever you want, so I already played in both my shoes, so I might as well just get the Mamba Mentality going, and I put ’em on and it worked out tonight.”
Wait…so the real Big Baller move is not to wear your $495 signature shoes, but a competitor’s $160 shoes? Huh. And it’s not like what happened in Ball’s Lakers’ workout, where he had to wear Adidas shoes because his BBB ones weren’t ready. Selling a shoe that’s at least double, if not triple, the price of most of its competition is tough enough in the first place, especially when you’re going up against industry giants, but it would seemingly get much tougher if your star athlete opts to wear a rival’s shoe on national TV.
A lot of people are wondering about the endgame here for LaVar and Big Baller Brand. Perhaps they’re getting enough sales to make this worth it, even if Lonzo doesn’t always promote the product, and perhaps there are enough people who buy Lonzo’s claims of the highly unconventional “wear whatever you want” strategy and don’t see that as a knock on the brand. But this is pretty much everything you usually don’t want your primary athlete to do, especially if you’re selling what you say is a superior, premium product, and there are many who are going to be turned off BBB by it. That has some speculating if BBB is on the way down, and if they might end up being just a smaller brand within another company like Nike or Adidas.
In any case, we don’t fully know what the future holds for BBB at this point in time. And we don’t know if this was just a one-off from Lonzo, or if he plans to keep wearing competitors’ shoes. But we do know that his best Summer League game so far came after he took the BBB shoes off. And the main focus of conversation afterwards wasn’t his play, but rather what shoes he wasn’t wearing. That doesn’t seem like a good omen for LaVar and BBB.
[Ben Koo on Clippit]