Can LaVar Ball convince us that we need what he’s selling?
The CEO of Big Baller Brand is trying to be the next great innovator. Should we buy it?
LaVar Ball — the comically, ridiculously hot taking, loudest talking, bleacher screaming, wannabe game changer and novice businessman, who, oh by the way, happens to be the father of potential top-three pick Lonzo Ball — is trying to sell you something that could be priceless.
Like any businessman, he’s trying to sell you on an idea that is beyond the price tag and deeper than the physical product you’re hoping will improve your basketball game.
According to LaVar, Big Baller isn’t just a basketball brand that’s grossly overselling and hyping up its product —it’s also a lifestyle that, for the price of $495, can evoke a feeling that makes you better than who you currently are. Buying the ZO2, Big Baller Brand’s first shoe, will bring to life a combination of Lonzo Ball’s skillset and LaVar Ball’s brashness.
LaVar Ball wants us to believe that Big Baller Brand is necessary.
Will we buy it?
For approximately 30 seconds after every time I slip on my Kobe XL basketball shoes, I believe I posses the #MambaMentality capable of being a Kobe Bryant-like player with his natural scoring ability.
Obviously, as soon as I take my first shot, the purity of the #MambaMentaliy vanishes and I’m back to being a below average basketball player.
But that doesn’t change my perception of the Kobe XL shoe. I need it. Not because it makes me a better basketball player, but because it makes me feel like I’m a better basketball player.
Perception is everything. Price is irrelevant when something can make you feel better about yourself, as basketball shoes can often do. You can’t put a price on the necessity of a product, especially one that feels cool and relevant and dope.
That’s what LaVar Ball is trying to sell you with Lonzo’s first signature shoe — the mythology that you need Big Baller Brand the way you need Uber to get from Point A to Point B and Google to look up the capital of Uzbekistan.
Of course, you can live without Amazon Prime or Netflix, but these companies have convinced you that they are necessities in the never ending quest to achieve a faster, stronger, more efficient and overall better quality of life.
Why use an encyclopedia when you can “Google it?” Why take a taxi when you can split an Uber with your friend?
It may be bold and brash, but that’s what it takes to became a cultural brand the way Air Jordan and Nike have dominated the shoe market over the last 30 years. If you can make consumers believe in something greater than the product itself, the same way the Kobe XL’s give me hope every time I walk onto a basketball court, then almost everything else you say and do becomes secondary.
LaVar Ball appears to understand this notion, but will Lonzo Ball be able to execute it for him?
When the ZO2 was announced last week with its $495 price tag, social media mocked LaVar Ball and Big Baller Brand — some of it rightfully so.
When you consider that the shoe is based upon the narrative of a player who has yet to score a single point in the NBA, it seems fairly ridiculous to charge fans more than twice as much money as LeBron’s shoe. The ZO2 is $495!
Lonzo Ball is fantastic, but that doesn’t mean he’s worthy of his own signature shoe based upon today’s standard.
Besides the fact that he has a strange shot that could seriously hinder his NBA career as a 3-point shooter, Lonzo struggled at times against the best competition at UCLA. There’s no guarantee he’ll even be a full-time starter as a rookie next season, let alone an instant sensation.
More broadly though, it’s just really hard to be a transcendent athlete who can convince a consumer to forego the shoe price for the intrinsic price. There’s a reason why there’s only one Air Jordan, and even then there’s still hundreds of other shoes on the market for fans to choose from at a lower cost.
It’s hard to become a necessary entity.
LaVar Ball wants to be like Uber. He flat out said it after Nike, Adidas and Under Armour told him they were not interested in a deal with Lonzo.
“We’ve said from the beginning, we aren’t looking for an endorsement deal,” he told ESPN. “We’re looking for co-branding, a true partner. But they’re not ready for that because they’re not used to that model. But hey, the taxi industry wasn’t ready for Uber, either.”
Is it possible that LaVar Ball could prove everyone wrong while continuing to drop ridiculous hot takes and say incredibly dumb things that make people hate him and his brand even more? Absolutely.
But ultimately, the success or failure of Big Baller Brand will have nothing to do with how many times LaVar spars with Skip Bayless or drops a ridiculous quote that gets spread through social media.
Big Baller Brand will live or die or become a punch line based solely upon Lonzo’s ability to become an NBA star and all that encompasses the celebrity world of being a baller.
Ironically, that’s the only thing LaVar Ball can’t sell you.
Do you need Big Baller Brand? That’s the billion dollar question.