Lessons From LaVar

LaVar Ball, father of future top-3 NBA draft pick Lonzo Ball of UCLA, has proven himself to be basketball’s preeminent pot-stirrer over the last few months. He’s said he could beat Michael Jordan in one-on-one when the two of them were in their primes, that Lonzo is, at this moment, better at basketball at two-time MVP and league-wide geometry redefined Stephen Curry, and that he was seeking a billion-dollar shoe deal for Lonzo and his other two UCLA-committed sons. Today, he was at it again, unveiling the ZO2, the first show from Ball’s Big Baller Brand sartorial company.

Despite having the name of a terrible independent shoe brand that an NBA video game character might have as a default sponsor before moving on to the Nikes of the world, BBB has more name recognition among basketball fans than any aside from Nike, adidas, Reebok and Under Armour, and the unveiling caused an appropriately outsized stir on social media. The shoes themselves were perfectly ok-looking Kobe 8 rip offs, but they were roasted, as all signature shoes are, no matter how inoffensive:

See? Surprisingly, they're nowhere near as janky and tough to look at as Lonzo’s jump shot form. The real stir, though, was caused by the $495 price tag attached to the shoes. They were immediately compared to former NBA point guard and forever Chinese legend Stephon Marbury’s own Starbury brand, which sought to sell sneakers at a more affordable $15–20 price. True to form, LaVar Ball had a response for the haters:

Rather than stopping at the typical surface-level “this guy is annoying, why do we have to keep hearing from the dad of a kid who hasn’t played a second in the NBA yet, etc” stuff, why don’t we take some time to learn some lessons from LaVar Ball, who is more successful as a father and businessman than most of us will probably ever be.

$495 sneakers and $220 flip flops present a great opportunity to examine your conscience vs bank account balance. The ZO2s are American made. The price tag isn’t just a function of hubris or an attention grab. It’s what happens when already-expensive products are American manufactured rather than made dirt-cheap by low-paid workers in bad conditions abroad. Big companies aren’t sacrificing their profits in the event that, for example, an insane orange president somehow forces them to bring their operations back to America, so this is either a lesson, a look into the future, or both. Do you want your stuff cheap, or do you want it American made? Where, in the end, do your priorities lie?

Of course, Ball would probably grab a bigger market share if he sacrificed some early profits and made the price tag less outrageous. “Less outrageous,” though, is not what LaVar Ball does. A nearly $500 shoe gets people talking, and if the price alone didn’t brand it a luxury item, that follow up tweet sure does. This sneaker is for Big Ballers only. This shoe is something you should strive to be able to afford. If it fit the meter of the line, Future probably would have already changed “I just fucked yo bitch in some Gucci flip flops” to “Big Baller Brand flip flops.” If you can’t work with all the branding and distribution advantages of the big boys, you need to find a way to make your own, even if it means seemingly making a fool of yourself. Exploit any advantage you can.

Another reading of that response tweet: have some fiscal responsibility! If you can’t afford the ZO2s, you’re not a Big Baller, so if you’re not actually a Big Baller, don’t buy them. Spend your money elsewhere, and strive to become a Big Baller, so that someday, you can wear that title’s official clothing brand. Is this what LaVar was going for, or was he just talking shit on poor people to cause a stir because he’s only like 75% self-aware? Probably the latter, but we take our lessons where we can find them.

The real lesson from LaVar Ball, though, is to believe in yourself and those you love. He is a Mr. Rogers or Richard Simmons for a new generation. Now, LaVar himself certainly doesn’t care about you believing in you the way those two figures seemed to, but look what a guy who averaged less than a point per game in one season of college basketball has gotten himself just by believing in himself and his sons and instilling in those sons that same confidence and a strong work ethic. Pretty damn far! Put another way, just loudly believing in himself will make LaVar Ball rich from the profession of Being A Father. If that’s the case, then maybe your dumb ass dream is achievable too.

So live like your dad, or maybe uncle or coach or something if you had a great dad like I did, is LaVar Ball. Shoot for the moon, and if you miss, you’ll land in the empty vacuum of space and die, so your failure won’t matter. And, with these lessons in mind, tune out almost everything LaVar Ball says from here on out, and only but his $500 shoes if you can afford them.

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