Former NFL standout Shawne Merriman will launch Lights Out sneakers this year after more than a decade in the apparel business. But there’s another shoe-game rookie that he’s got some strong words for.
“No knock against LaVar Ball and the Big Baller Brand — he’s an African-American doing something that hasn’t been done before, he’s trying to do it his way, and I applaud that,” Merriman told Footwear News. “What I don’t applaud is how he’s doing it.”
Merriman started his Lights Out brand during his playing career, but will debut its footwear in July. The linebacker for the San Diego Chargers and Buffalo Bills suggested the Ball family take a similar path.
“If I was advising LaVar and Lonzo and the Ball family, I would tell them they should have taken a shoe deal, understand the industry, distribution, the customers’ wants and needs, the market, and then go do your thing. That’s what I did,” explained Merriman. “I understood how the business works, the market, and I learned how to assemble a team that’s seasoned. My guys that I have in the company, they’ve been around for years at the biggest brands, and with this knowledge, we created this monster at Lights Out.”
The eldest Ball made it clear what his intentions were for his son Lonzo, and the brands competing to win the guard over prior to being drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2017 NBA Draft. Leading up to the draft, LaVar repeatedly said brands would have to come with $1 billion to sign a deal with his Big Baller Brand, which his three sons would eventually wear on an NBA court (Lonzo is in the league, and LiAngelo and LaMelo play pro ball in Lithuania).
Today, Lonzo plays in his signature shoe, the Zo:2, and LaMelo plays in his Melo Ball 1 model.
Throughout his playing career, Merriman laced up cleated styles from the Swoosh. But during his career, he received more than just shoes from the brand.
“I had a great relationship with Nike. I spent a lot of time with them on the product side, understanding the industry [and] the customer,” Merriman said. “I used to fly up to Oregon, sit in meeting rooms, go over things for hours a day in the off-season because I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
Lights Out will get its start in sneakers with four training styles, starting with The Taker and The Streak, which focus on both function and fashion.