Can there be a better story in entrepreneurship than Lavar Ball and his Big Baller Brand? The narrative begins in sunny California where a former aspiring athlete, Lavar Ball ends up having three physically talented sons with the eldest son setting himself up to become a top three NBA draft pick. In the forefront is a high draft position in the ’17 NBA draft, and in the background is the unveiling of his own shoe along with other Big Baller Brand merchandise and accessories. The sports world has become enthralled with the outgoing personality of Lavar Ball. Most of his interviews have been historic two way battles including his back and forth with ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, and heated infamous exchange with FS1’s Kristine Leahy. At this point in his career as an interviewee, Lavar Ball has surpassed the most popular daytime television hosts as a fan favorite.
So what’s the story behind the Big Baller Brand. At best it will be an epic tale of a father who decided not to let the athletic talents of his three sons get exploited by the big apparel companies. At worst you have the rare act of a self-absorbed former athlete who has mastered the skill of marketing himself and his product in a very short window of time. It takes the best PR and advertising firms years to build a meaningful name for most products and brands. It took Lavar Ball less than 90 days. While most people will see it as a person profiting off his kids’ talents and abilities, business geniuses would otherwise welcome Lavar Ball into that small circle that we know as self made millionaire.
The process was both difficult and simple. Turning his sons into basketball stars was the most difficult part. Lonzo Ball begin to show signs of greatness as a sophomore in high school. He would begin a rapid growth spurt that stretched his 5’11 frame almost 6 inches and ended up giving the eldest and most talented Ball brother a 6’5 height with the wingspan of a 6’8 athlete. Lonzo would eventually end up at UCLA where he culminated a successful freshman campaign with a NCAA tournament loss to Kentucky. That game by the way had the third highest tv rating in NCAA tournament history. Fast forward several interviews later, the unveiling of his new shoes, and a ton of “love him or hate him” social media posts; and here we are now at one of the biggest upsets in sports history. Why an upset you ask? Picture this scenario. After unreasonable demands of a billion dollar contract from one of the major athletic shoe brands, the owners of these respective brands decided to meet at the CEO roundtable and collude to ostracize the Ball family. A sort of preemptive strike if you will in order to disarm a potential marketing genius before his idea of a self made brand rippled across the psyche of young future stars. And maybe these owners understand the simplicity of it all. A shoe collector would surely love to venture out have a pair of customized shoes and other apparel from a player specific label. It would especially keep things a lot more interesting knowing that there is a piece of history being stored away on a fan’s favorite player. An added bonus would be the absence of mundane sports conversation when fans talk to other fans about their favorite player’s athletic apparel and merchandise brands. Taking a back seat would be the current major labels and the winners of the branding wars would be smaller more “new on the block” brands.
Call this a usurping of the throne if you will. But all Lavar Ball did was wake up the masses. And of course the only thing that the major brands can do now is muddy up his name by making Ball seem overly cocky and a waste of interview space. But to the dismay of Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas, the Big Baller Brand has already caught the attention of every potential pro athlete, up and coming brands, and sports junkies around the world. You can say what you want about Lavar Ball and his sons but know that the Big Baller Brand will remain a mainstay in the world of sports simply because this has become a case of supporting the anti-hero. Love it or hate it but in the end….it is what it is.