As crazy as it sounds, the Ball family-owned BBB/Big Baller Brand recently announced the release of Lonzo Ball‘s first signature shoes – the ZO2, which is certainly the unorthodox way to approach the sneaker market of the NBA.
This is the first time in the NBA… probably in any basketball league history.. that a top prospect would be entering the pro league without being tied up to any established athletic apparel company except his own.
It was reported a couple of weeks ago that all three sneaker giants (Nike, adidas, Under Armour) have rescinded their offer for the UCLA standout after his father, the notorious LaVar Ball, insisted they license the BBB brand from him, which he currently values at $1 billion.
That is not a typo. He actually said that.
Just to give you an idea of how much rookies earn in their shoe endorsement deals, here are the contracts of the top 3 picks from the 2016 NBA Draft:
Obviously, LaVar is seeking more money for his son but no one in their right mind was ready give him that. Having no offers on the table, the BBB became independent and decided to produce, release, and market the shoes on their own.
Priced at $495 (roughly Php 25,000), one has to wonder on who would actually shell out that kind of money for a pair of shoes?
According to the man himself, 495 pairs of the ZO2s have already been pre-ordered so far. It’s still up for debate if this is a smart business move for the Ball family or is it just a way to ripoff consumers by using his son.
As for the shoe itself, the ZO2s haven’t been well received around the sneaker community. The BBB company has said that the design process took years but some argue that it’s a copycat of Eric Avar’s design with the Nike Kobe line mixed with the adidas Boost as the cushion system.
(Nike Kobe 4)
Even the logo of the shoe seems to have been copied.
With a yellow and white design, the ZO2 highlights Lonzo’s initials and his jersey number, and forms a circle that is very similar to Ohio State coach Zach Smith’s Zone 6, who has taken his frustrations with Lavar on Twitter.
How does the ZO2 affect the local sneaker community?
The latest shoe trends have always caused an uproar in the Philippines. Take for example the adidas Yeezy Boost 350, which retails for Php 11,495 but “resells” close to Php 40,000. NMDs and Pharrell’s collection with the three stripes have also been hard to get despite the hefty price. A couple of Air Jordan and Nike special limited edition pairs can also fetch 200 to 300% markup.
The problem is that the BBB brand and the ZO2s are not Nike nor adidas, so it doesn’t have enough mystique to justify anyone to shell big money for them. Maybe not yet.
In his interview with Undisputed, Lavar insists that “… people are losing sight, they’re looking at the price tag and not understanding that Lonzo’s shoe is symbolic. That comes with price tag. Symbolic as he’s the first one EVER to come in here without even playing a game to have his own brand.”
For now, it will be impossible for the ZO2s to reach our shores as the company is still in the process of producing them in the US. And the additional costs of moving it to other countries would only increase the already incredulous price tag. But if someone brings them here in the Philippines, can it net something in the market because of it’s, well, “symbolism” to both athletes and sneaker enthusiasts?
The answer will solely depend on how Lonzo will perform in the NBA. If he turns out as a bust, then at least the family tried. But if he becomes a franchise guard like many scouts predict him to be, then this could truly be the shoe to start a movement.
Imagine – top rookies for the upcoming years may consider building their own brand and have total control of the design process and price points. Who wouldn’t want that?
And the idea of being your own brand definitely sounds better than signing a generic contract offer from Nike, adidas, and Under Armour while waiting for the staple guys (LeBron, Harden, Curry) to retire before having their own signature shoes.
The Big Baller Brand just made a huge gamble with the ZO2. But it could soon payoff as long as it lives up to the immense expectations that LaVar has set for his son, his shoes, and himself.