Legendary basketball shoe executive says LaVar Ball's marketing plan might pay off, but it's a huge gamble

LaVar Ball, the outspoken father of potential lottery NBA draft pick Lonzo Ball, has turned heads with his marketing plan for his Big Baller Brand and his son’s shoes.

LaVar most recently made waves by revealing Lonzo’s first shoe, the ZO2, costs $US495, well above the normal cost for a basketball shoe.

The news come after Nike, Adidas, and Under Armour all turned down endorsing Lonzo after LaVar insisted that the companies licence Big Baller, as opposed to signing a regular endorsement deal.

The sports world is mixed on its feelings for LaVar — while some find his outlandish ways obnoxious, others see his unique approach to brand-building as a potentially worthwhile risk. Legendary basketball shoe executive Sonny Vaccaro, who worked with Nike, Adidas, and Reebok, is in this camp. Vaccaro told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne in a profile of the Ball family that he thinks LaVar’s plan might pay off — but it will require perfect circumstances.

“I enjoyed the father’s brashness. It took a lot of guts to do what he did. And it is hugely possible that in the right situation, this could be one of the greatest stories of all time. I just wish he’d stopped and thought about it a little longer. Because at $US495, you took away the public rooting for you. You allow the public to think other things of who you really are.”

Vacarro added, “If he just gets off to a good start, Lonzo could be America’s darling. But he almost has to be that … or the game is over.”

Vacarro is certainly not the only person to feel this way. Following the release of the ZO2, Draymond Green shared a similar sentiment, saying he likes the idea, but thinks LaVar is going about it the wrong way.

“I like the concept. However, I think they’re going about the whole thing wrong. But $US500 for a basketball shoe? Who are we kidding? … This kid has never scored a layup in the NBA. He thinks he’s gonna sell his shoes for $US500? That’s just absurd … Even those that can afford that shoe don’t want to associate themselves with him. So the audience you’re going after you have already made dislike you.”

One perfect scenario for Lonzo, according to Vaccaro? Landing with his hometown Lakers. The Lakers have a 47% chance at landing a top-three pick and are rumoured to be interested in drafting Lonzo, who is expected to be a top-three pick. Lonzo could stay near his family and hometown, play for a big market, and potentially be an answer at point guard for the talent-starved Lakers. It could help Big Baller Brand flourish.

Even the Balls are rooting for this option. LaVar told Shelburne, “Oh, he’s going to be a Laker. I’m going to keep talking about it until it happens.”

Of course, the Balls can’t control where Lonzo goes, and if he doesn’t land with the Lakers, the spotlight will still be intense. As Kyrie Irving recently said on Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye’s podcast, Lonzo is going to have a “target” on him wherever he goes because of the media attention his family has gotten.

For the Ball family’s brand to take off, a lot is going to be riding on Lonzo’s rookie year in the NBA.

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