Where Lonzo Ball gets picked in the NBA Draft is still up in the air. But what his father, LaVar, is sure of is the logo Lonzo’s sneakers will feature when he steps on the court as a pro for the first time.
“He’ll have his shoe on, the triple b [Big Baller Brand] shoe on, and it will be his signature shoe,” LaVar Ball told Footwear News in an exclusive interview. “The vision that my son came up with, that shoe is cold. Why? Because it’s going on his foot and it’s what he likes.”
ESPN broke the news last week that LaVar Ball left recent meetings with the athletic market’s biggest brands — Nike, Under Armour and Adidas — with no partnership agreement in place for the apparel label he created, dubbed Big Baller Brand, or an endorsement deal for his soon-to-be NBA rookie son.
And he’s not concerned.
“All three doors are closed. I don’t want to go back to them,” the elder Ball said. “They think I’m going to come back to them and be like, ‘It didn’t work. Come on, give us something.’ But I don’t need nothing from those guys.”
Ball continued: “But I’ll tell you what they don’t want. They don’t want this ripple effect that’s about to happen where folks are going to start coming into the league talking about, ‘Guess what? We don’t need an endorsement deal by any of the big three.’ ”
Lonzo, who wore Adidas while playing at UCLA, has been widely projected as a top three pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, scheduled for June 22. And after Lonzo hits the hardwood in his own shoe as a rookie, LaVar believes other up-and-coming players could try to do something similar.
“Shoe companies are looking for guys that will represent their brand. Just imagine if everyone says, ‘I’m not doing this.’ Now what are they left with?” he explained. “They don’t want this ripple effect where folks say, ‘I don’t want an endorsement deal,’ or when they get one they say straight off the bat, ‘Where’s my signature shoe?’ You’ve got to go years before you get a signature shoe. Why? They give you a signature shoe when they feel like it.”
Even after leaving meetings with athletic giants that yielded no deals for his son, Ball’s stance on partnerships and teaming with a company that is willing to back his Big Baller Brand is unwavering. Partially because he believes the split is unfair, and that the sponsorship model is imbalanced.
“Everyone is stuck in the same lane where they’re always thinking about an endorsement deal. They were telling me about Ben Simmons, he got a $20 million deal, [as if] that’s something,” Ball said. “If $20 million to you is something, then that’s good. But if a guy is making billions of dollars off of you and he gives you $20 million, that’s not good for me.”
And he’s also keen on ownership.
“Everyone looks up to LeBron [James] and Kobe [Bryant] and KD [Kevin Durant] and their shoes with Nike, but if they ever get mad and want to go their own way, that’s fine, but leave those signs there,” Ball said. “Leave that KD sign, leave that King James sign and leave that Mamba sign. That’s not theirs. With these triple B’s, if I’m gone, I’m gone [with my logo] and you can’t do nothing about it.”
Despite the sponsorship model used for most of today’s star athletes, Ball said he believes one player got it right: Michael Jordan.
“He’s co-branded with Nike. Nike’s logo isn’t on anything, but everybody knows he’s backed by Nike,” he said. “But it took him so long to do that. Why isn’t anyone else doing that? Because they’re hitting them in the head like, ‘Let me give you an endorsement deal,’ and people have been falling in line for the same thing. I’m not in that line.”
Even though Nike, Under Armour and Adidas are now an after thought, Ball hasn’t ruled out working with Chinese brands that are aiming to attract a basketball-fanatic consumer.
He also hasn’t ruled out teaming up with people or companies with no sports or footwear affiliations to back his label.
“There’s some other people out there that have money that aren’t even involved in sports,” Ball said. “I’ll team with anybody who is going to do it my way, that’s is going to invest in my brand. I’ll even team with Kellogg’s Froot Loops.”
While no deal is imminent, Ball suggested to FN that sneaker fans could soon get their first glimpse of what son Lonzo could wear on the court in the upcoming season.
“You sneaker people have got to wait three more days and you’ll see what’s up,” he said. “You have to see what’s going on in three days; count down ’til Friday. People are going to start putting their foot in their mouth.”