By Alex Altman
A few days from now, Lonzo Ball will be a top pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. He’ll almost assuredly be taken by the Los Angeles Lakers, his hometown team, where the former UCLA point guard will instantly become the face of the NBA’s most iconic franchise.
But he still won’t score as many headlines as his father.
If you haven’t heard of LaVar Ball, it’s not for his lack of trying. For the last several months, the patriarch of the Ball basketball dynasty has seared his way into the public consciousness with a string of comments so divisive they would make Kanye West recoil.
Like the time he blamed UCLA’s NCAA Tournament loss on “slow white guys.” Or the time he claimed he would have crushed Michael Jordan one-on-one back in his heyday.
His comments have drawn criticism from everyone from Jordan to LeBron James — and the media, which can’t resist a loud, swaggering personality, has taken notice.
More like taken the bait.
In the last few months, Ball has been invited onto talk shows, appeared on magazine covers, flooded social media feeds and ignited fierce debates on radio. He’s even starred in a screaming match with ESPN’s own resident firecracker, Stephen A. Smith.
Along the way, he’s earned millions in free advertising for his nascent company, which he now says is worth billions of dollars.
A year ago, LaVar started Big Baller Brand, an athletic apparel company inspired by his three sons. (Lonzo’s two younger brothers are also basketball stars). Assured of his sons’ collective marketability, LaVar wanted $1 billion for a co-branding shoe deal.
After industry titans like Nike passed, LaVar released the company’s debut shoe on his own, retailing it at a whopping $495 a pair. The price tag was shocking. And yet, roughly 500 pairs were ordered in the first week alone, according to the LA Times.
Now that Lonzo’s likely headed to the big-market Lakers, LaVar wants even more for a deal.
“If they want to talk to me now, it just went up to $3 billion,” he told reporters. “That’s the only way they going to come at me.”
LaVar Ball is brash, brazen and controversial — qualities that 20 years ago would have gotten him nowhere, but in 2017 have bought him an incalculable amount of free publicity.
It’s unclear how much Big Baller Brand is really worth, but this much is clear: LaVar Ball will get what he wants. If you disagree, you haven’t been paying much attention to what he’s saying.
Or more importantly, how loud he’s saying it.