Lonzo Ball’s High-Priced Shoes Are Negatively Affecting His Fan Base

Lonzo Ball, the former UCLA basketball player who was declared for the 2017 NBA draft, has become a household name and role model for young and aspiring athletes throughout the country. In the recent weeks, Ball has made headlines for developments regarding the merchandise for Big Baller Brand, an athletic apparel company that he launched with his father, LaVar Ball. Back in April, Ball lost a shoe endorsement deal with Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour, but on May 4, Big Baller Brand released the ZO2: Prime, which is arguably the most talked-about pair of shoes currently on the market. However, the hype lies not within the style or quality of the shoe, but with its steep price tag of $495.

On the day of the release, Shaquille O’Neal, who sells his own inexpensive brand of shoes at Walmart, criticized Big Baller Brand on Twitter with a tweet about how "real big baller brands don't over charge kids for shoes." LaVar Ball tweeted three hours later defending the cost of the shoes by stating that “Big Baller’s loose! If you can’t afford the ZO2’S, you’re NOT a BIG BALLER!" No matter how confident LaVar Ball is about these shoes and his Big Baller Brand, it is still absurd and disrespectful that he would insinuate that any fans who cannot afford his shoes are not worthy of his brand nor are they worthy of being a "BIG BALLER" (whatever that means). 

LaVar Ball may be displaying his dedication to launching Big Baller Brand's success by setting the price of the shoes high and garnering national attention, but it seems as though he has not thought about the repercussions and effects that this high-price has on Lonzo’s younger fan base. Last week, I was tutoring a group of elementary and middle school students in Watts when a ten-year-old boy came up to me and exclaimed that he had written a short story and that he wanted me to read it. Essentially, the boy had written a five sentence paragraph about how Lonzo Ball’s shoes cost $1,000 and how it made him feel very upset. I gave the story back to the boy and he told me that Ball used to be his favorite athlete until he found out that his merchandise was too expensive for him to afford. At first, I thought that the boy was exaggerating the cost of the shoes but you can actually place a pre-order for a limited edition and personally autographed pair of the ZO2: WET for $995 and according to the description, it is being marketed as “a once in a lifetime opportunity to own a piece of basketball history." It is unfortuante that there is an entire fan base, especially young children who look up to Ball, who cannot afford to purchase the shoes and are the same fan base that LaVar Ball claims is not good enough for the shoes simply because they cannot afford them.

Interestingly enough, according to the Los Angeles Times, only five hundred pairs of the Big Baller Brand shoes and sandals were pre-ordered during the first week of their release. Although these are just the statistics from the first week of pre-orders, it seems as though these numbers would be higher if the price was more affordable and if the shoes were marketed for the use of everyday people rather than as sports memorabilia.

I understand the reasoning behind LaVar Ball’s bold display of confidence and entrepreneurship as he hypes up the Big Baller Brand, places a high price on the shoes, and strikes the market while Lonzo is hot off of the UCLA courts. Ball is an outstanding basketball player and to have your own brand of merchandise before you even become a NBA player is incredible, but Ball is not helping out his son’s image or career with the overly confident and offensive tweets.

The fact of the matter is that there are athletes like O’Neal who recognize that they have a fan base who cannot afford a $495 shoe and specifically create merchandise for stores like Walmart where any fan can purchase the shoes. Ball’s professional career is just beginning and clearly these shoes aren’t being marketed with the younger fan base in mind, but Ball should keep in mind that although this shoe will bring in a lot of hype and revenue, it still pays to create a shoe that is affordable for all ages and economic backgrounds. 

Photo courtesy of foxnews.com