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Will Lonzo Ball's $US495 ($AU670) shoe alienate him from fans?

Young Lonzo Ball is watching his career be destroyed by his dad. (Image: WikiCommons. By TonyTheTiger, CC BY-SA 4.0)
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8th May, 2017
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UCLA’s star point guard Lonzo Ball may well be the number one pick in the upcoming NBA draft but he has not been the most prominent member of the Ball family in the run up to the event.

Lonzo’s father Lavar has crated numerous media firestorms with his outspoken claims about both his son and himself. Lavar has claimed that he would’ve beaten Michael Jordan in his prime and that his sons have a better chance of success in the NBA than LeBron James.

The latest frenzy surrounding the Ball family has been as a result of the release of Lonzo’s signature shoe, a shoe that has been priced at $US495 ($AU670).

Yes that’s right, $495.

Lavar Ball decided to go it alone after talks with Nike, Adidas and Under Armour broke down as a result of his excessive demands. Ball reportedly wanted to package all three of his sons into a $1 billion co sponsorship deal which none of the major brands wanted anything to do with.

The ZO2 which has been manufactured and released under Lavar Ball’s own Big Baller Brand has drawn widespread criticism for both its astronomical cost and money-obsessed branding.

The Ball patriarch defended the cost of the shoe by claiming he was competing at a level above Nike, Adidas and Under Armour – who have some of the NBA’s biggest stars attached to their brands.

To put the cost of the ZO2 into context. LeBron James’s most recent signature shoe with Nike is priced at $175, James Harden’s Adidas shoe will set you back $140 and Steph Curry’s hideous Under Armour clodhopper will cost you a mere $120.

I understand that to make a profit as a small company – which isn’t backed by the corporate might of a company like Nike – your price points are going to have to be a little higher. However, it is hard to see many people deciding to pay $495 for a shoe endorsed by a kid who hasn’t played a single minute in the NBA. Particularly when you can get a trainer endorsed by one of the games biggest stars for less than half the cost.

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There is certainly value in what Lavar Ball is trying to do for his son. By creating his own brand Lonzo can be free from the pressures of corporate sponsorship. However, by taking the plunge this early he has taken a huge risk.

If Lonzo does not turn out to be an star in the NBA, the Big Baller Brand will become a laughing stock and his two younger sons LaMelo and LiAngelo will not want to be associated with it.

Lavar Ball is in a unique position in having three sons all with a chance to make it in the NBA and it is understandable that he want to cash in. However, he needs to think about how all of this will affect his sons and how they are perceived.

Unless Lonzo is an instant star in the league he will find it hard to shake the tag of ‘the guy who charged $495 for his shoes’. By trying to tap into the high end sneaker market this early there is a risk that the Ball’s will alienate fans who make up the majority of the league.

Phrases from Lavar such as “If you can’t afford the ZO2’S, you’re NOT a BIG BALLER!” do little to dim the perception that these shoes are priced out of the range of your average NBA fan.

Lavar should maybe take a step back and think about what is best for his son and not for his wallet.

Shaquille O’Neal, the man famous for plenty more than just the size of his shoes, summed it up on Twitter.

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