Lonzo Ball has declared for the NBA Draft after one season at UCLA and his business team’s first moves are already raising eyebrows thanks to the unusual demands of his boisterous father, LaVar Ball.
For most basketball players who are projected to go at or near the top of the draft, their first income won’t be their rookie contract, but rather their first shoe deal. But for Ball that is now up in the air as Darren Rovell of ESPN reports that Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour have all told Ball that they are not interested.
According to Rovell, the shoe giants walked away after LaVar “offered something that has no precedent.”
“In his meetings with all three companies, LaVar insisted that they licence his upstart Big Baller Brand from him,” wrote Rovell. “He also showed the companies a shoe prototype that he hoped would be Lonzo’s first shoe.”
In other words, the Balls are not looking to signed an endorsement deal. Rather, they want their personal brand, Big Baller Brand, to become something more akin to Jordan Brand, a branch of Nike that grew out of Michael Jordan’s Air Jordan shoe line.
LaVar Ball confirmed that sentiment to Rovell when he compared his family’s brand to Uber.
“We’ve said from the beginning, we aren’t looking for an endorsement deal,” LaVar 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.”
With the big traditional shoe companies seemingly out of the picture, Ball told Rovell that he will now reach out to Chinese brands, such as Peak, Li-Ning, and Anta.
Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors has a shoe deal with Anta.
Ball also confirmed that they do have a prototype shoe, noting that he has been “working on that shoe ever since my boys were born.”
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