May 11

Lavar Ball is a Genius


The ZO2 By Big Baller Brand

If you’re a basketball fan and unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, you’ve probably heard that projected top 3 pick, Lonzo Ball dropped his signature shoe this past Thursday. It’s called The ZO2.

Typically, this isn’t a big deal. There are numerous star NBA athletes with their own signature shoes such as Lebron James, Kyrie Irving, Steph Curry, and Kevin Durant just to name a few. The only difference between them and Lonzo Ball is they’ve logged thousands of minutes on NBA basketball courts. Lonzo Ball hasn’t played a single quarter. He hasn’t even been drafted yet!

So why the uproar about an unsigned rookie coming out of UCLA with his own sneaker? It’s not about the sneaker itself. It’s the sticker price, $495 and $995 if you want a pair signed by Lonzo himself.

The other part of this that seems to be an even bigger deal is “Big Baller Brand” is Lonzo Ball’s own company run by his father Lavar Ball. This will make Lonzo Ball the first professional basketball player to come into the NBA with his own brand. Which is a huge milestone. It could open the floodgates for other pro athletes to follow suit if things go well.

The $1000 Burger

Let’s face it, Lavar Ball isn’t going to win the spokesperson of the year award. For the simple fact, he sometimes puts his foot in his mouth, i.e. saying that white players have slow foot speed and that’s the reason UCLA didn’t win a National Championship (potential public relations nightmare). With that said, he certainly deserves to be Marketer of The Year.

Why? I’m glad you asked!

Have you ever heard of the $1000 burger? If you do a search online you’ll probably find a list of burgers with high prices but the first of its kind came in the early 90’s. There was a company in NYC that priced their burger at $1000.

Now, was this burger extra special? Not really. Maybe it had a few additional toppings and it might have been cooked a certain way. But there wasn’t much that differentiated this burger from that of a regular cheeseburger you or I could make in the backyard. Then, why was it priced at $1000?

The answer my friends is MARKETING! The owner of the restaurant realized that if he added a few ingredients and made the burger a ridiculous price, people would come from the mountaintops to see what a $1000 burger tastes like. And he was right!

The marketing ploy made the restaurant a bunch of money. The burger gained a ton of notoriety around NYC and the rest of the country during a time where the internet was new and social media was nonexistent (even Oprah bought one).

Lonzo Ball’s $495 and $995 shoe is the quintessential $1000 burger. It’s priced well above the shoes of other star NBA players and as I’ve stated, he hasn’t played a minute in the NBA. We don’t know if he’ll be an All-Star, role player, or an all-out flop. If Lonzo Ball turns out to be anything below an NBA All-Star it would render his shoe and brand to the status of trash.

I think Sam Cassell was great, but no one is buying his sneakers. Michael Jordan signed with Nike when all they made was running shoes and they gave him equity in the company. Jordan’s greatness made Nike the powerhouse it is today. They should literally call it, “The House That Jordan Built.”

The fact of the matter is Lavar Ball’s plan worked. Twitter was ablaze about the shoes and they were trending on Facebook. Everyone was talking about the ZO2’s. It’s been all over ESPN and FS1 (The only two sports broadcasts I enjoy). I’ve even written this article about it. Regardless of the number of pre-orders they’ve received, Lavar Ball has gotten our attention.

Now, it’s up to the play of his son to keep it.

“Just One More Thing”

As the late Steve Jobs used to say, “Just, one more thing.”

It was highly publicized that Lavar Ball had been shopping around for a co-branding deal with one of the big three sneaker companies (Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas). He showed all three the prototype for the shoe and all three turned him down.

Never before has someone had the AUDACITY to ask for a co-branding deal and to show them the first shoe they intend to wear on their pro debut. These big brands are used to players coming to them on hands and bended knees. They must have felt slighted by the arrogance of Lavar & Lonzo Ball.

So I asked myself, “Has this ever happened in any other industry?” The answer is yes, it most certainly has!

You may not remember this, but when the original iPhone was created and introduced on June 29, 2007. It was announced that it would only be available on one phone carrier, AT&T.

At the time I was 19 and I figured it was an exclusive deal between Apple and AT&T to keep other phone companies at bay and attract new customers. That may have happened, but that wasn’t the reason AT&T was the only carrier.

No other phone network wanted the iPhone. Even AT&T originally turned down Apple when they made their first pitch.

At that time, it was the phone carrier, not the manufacturer, that dictated what specifications a phone was made with. And, when the iPhone came along with its touchscreen and applications all the big phone carriers (AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile) said, “No thanks.”

No one had ever created a phone and denied the carriers free reign on the specifications until Steve Jobs and Apple. Which initially got them barred. Eventually, they were able to convince AT&T and it became the phenomenon it is today. In the end, it turned out to be a huge loss for everyone who was not AT&T for several years.

My point is this, right now Lavar and “Big Baller Brand” is the iPhone. They’re doing something sleek and new, with a ton of specs. Who is going to be their AT&T?

And, with everything that is being said about Lavar Ball in the media, the man is a genius. It’s only a matter of time before he’s recognized for it.

P.S. He could have never beaten MJ one-on-one.


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