Lavar Ball has captured the 24 hour news cycle over the past few months. He is the father of Lonzo Ball, first round pick of the Los Angeles Lakers. His son LiAngelo Ball is headed to UCLA this year, and Lavar promises he will also be one-and-done. LaMelo Ball, who recently scored 92 points in a high school game, is waiting in the wings. No stranger to controversy, Lavar convinced Melo to spurn Nike, Adidas and Under Armour to promote the Z02 – the Big Baller Brand signature shoe. A few professional athletes have copped a pair. However, Jay-Z could be Big Baller Brand’s most-important customer:
On the new Rap Radar podcast on TIDAL, Jay-Z passionately spoke about why he’s rooting for Big Baller Brand to do well. He says he bought three pairs of the ZO2s, Lonzo Ball’s independently-made signature sneaker, and also speaks on why he’s supporting LaVar. Read HOV’s full, unedited quote below:
LaVar Ball, he said, ‘I’m gonna start my own company.’ Everybody’s like, ‘You should sign to Nike.’ He may go about things wrong. He may have a big mouth. But I bought three pairs. I didn’t get ‘em. But that man has a vision of his own. Why wouldn’t I support him? Why wouldn’t I support him? He feels like he can move culture and his son got a big enough name and a big enough brand that they can do it.
Nike had to start somewhere. Why do we get so upset when we, as a culture, want to start our own shit? That shit is puzzling to me. I sit back and I’m like, this makes no sense. Why can’t he start a sneaker? ‘Oh, his sneakers are terrible.’ Remember, I’m not being negative towards anyone. I’ve seen some bad sneakers from Under Armour. I’ve seen bad Michael Jordan sneakers.
Michael Jordan obviously is the greatest. At some point he was selling for Nike and at some point he broke away and he started building the Jordan Brand. I’m sure that was difficult. And I’m sure people at that time, when he was building the Jordan Brand, was like, ‘You playing yourself. You’re gonna leave Nike?’ Man, all due respect, fuck Nike. And I don’t mean personally, I mean like fuck the thing.
Everyone has this reverence towards these things. I’m sure when we walked in and started Roc Nation, everyone looked and said ‘Universal’ or Def Jam. Like, we built the brand. It can happen. We are culture. Nothing moves without us. We just continue to give it away. And it’s cool. Everyone can participate. Nike still works with Jordan. It’s just the nature of our relationship has to change.
Jay released 4:44 earlier this summer and the NBA world was overjoyed with his first album in nearly four years. He spoke about generational wealth on one of the records and he also referenced building credit and leaving something behind for his children.
Though Lavar has been clowned by the mainstream media, I thought the Z02s were innovative, risky and over top – just like Lavar. The price point of $550 was a stroke of genius. Regardless of the price point, Big Baller Brand was not likely to sell a lot of shows. By marketing them for $550 (i) Lavar was able to create a lot of hype and buzz and (ii) position the shows as a novelty. Jay-Z and a few pro athletes are likely the only ones who could afford them, putting them in an exclusive club. In economics we call this the “Veblen Effect.” Shock Exchange: How Inner-City Kids From Brooklyn Predicted the Great Recession and the Pain Ahead explained how colleges also use the Veblen Effect as as marketing tool:
Colleges that do not increase tuition in lockstep with competition have difficulties explaining why their college is as good as those who do. The technical term for this phenomenon is the “Veblen Effect,” named for American economist Thorstein Veblen … Veblen traveled the U.S. and studied human behavior; he noticed how some Americans acquired things based solely upon the social status it gave them … According to Veblen, many people bought a Mercedes Benz not because of how well the car drove, but because few people could afford it.
Now that rap impresario Jay-Z has a pair, it could send demand for Z02s through the roof.
The Game Within The Game
A business man himself, Jay-Z also has a kindred spirit with shameless self-promoters and those who are willing to take big risks. The mainstream media acted butt hurt when Ball decided to launch Z02s. It also acted as if he was doing his son a disservice by spurning the big shoe companies. The media went out of its way to thwart Ball and practically recommend that no one buy his shoes. ICheck out the tete-a-tete between Ball and Fox Sports News‘ Kristine Leahy.
Leahy had previously used the Fox News platform to trash Ball and Bigger Baller Brand, but the ploy backfired. African Americans actually gravitated toward Ball. Now pro athletes are either in two camps – with Ball or against him.
I know firsthand what Lavar Ball is experiencing. Shock Exchange is the most plagiarized book in the country. It has been plagiarized by President Obama, the Senate Finance Committee, the House Ways & Means Committee and the Bank of International Settlements. By definition, it is also the most influential book in the country. However, because a black man is making money from it the mainstream media pretends like it does not exist. The media would rather promote those who plagiarize Shock Exchange than acknowledge the book or the author.