Today is the day LaVar Ball has likely had circled on his calendar for months: the day the first Big Baller Brand signature sneaker is scheduled to ship to those who were willing to pay the $495 price tag.
While it remains to be seen if the brand can meet the expected ship date and get Lonzo Ball’s shoe in the hands and on the feet of consumers, doing so will mark a milestone for a company that was little more than a dream just 18 months ago.
For Ball & Co., the past year-plus has been an unprecedented ride in the athletic industry, all leading up to today’s expected ship date of the ZO2 Prime Remix signature sneaker.
May 21, 2016: LaVar Ball files trademark for ‘Big Baller Brand’
By the close of Lonzo’s senior year at Chino Hills High School — a dominant 35-0 undefeated final season — LaVar moves forward with a master plan he now says has been two decades in the making. Capitalizing on the family’s sport-perfect last name, and his nickname among friends since college, LaVar begins the trademark process for “Big Baller Brand” for use in “clothing, footwear and headwear.”
June 2016: Big Baller Brand launches
Big Baller Brand started with a web store, selling primarily printed logo T-shirts, sweatshirts and shorts. The upstart company partnered with Garment Decor, a local Chino Hills full-service design, printing and shipping company. The brand’s formation didn’t technically violate any NCAA rules, as it was deemed a “family brand.” As long as the three sons did not appear in promotional imagery, they remained eligible to play college basketball.
Early 2017: Lonzo Ball breaks out at UCLA, LaVar rises to fame with bold declarations
Turning around a once-storied school’s basketball team? Already better than two-time MVP Stephen Curry? Potentially being the greatest player ever, once he takes over the NBA? LaVar wasn’t short on brash predictions for Lonzo’s future success. The repeated proclamations went viral every time LaVar spoke. Meanwhile, Lonzo kept mostly quiet while averaging 14.6 points, 7.6 assists and 6 rebounds and leading UCLA to a 31-5 record.
April 30: Major sneaker companies pass on Ball family
LaVar Ball told ESPN that none of the three big companies — Nike, Adidas and Under Armour — wanted to do a deal with him, at least under the terms he was asking for.
“We’ve said from the beginning, we aren’t looking for an endorsement deal,” LaVar said. “We’re looking for co-branding, a true partner.”
May 4: Lonzo unveils $495 ZO2 signature shoe
In a marketing case study that will be cited for decades to come, Lonzo Ball eschewed a traditional sneaker endorsement deal — bypassing at least a guaranteed four-year, $10 million deal, according to industry sources. As legend goes, LaVar had a rather steep asking price in negotiations with brands.
“A billion dollars, it has to be there,” Ball told USA Today in the spring. “That’s our number, a billion, straight out of the gate. And you don’t even have to give it to me all up front. Give us $100 mil over 10 years.”
Instead, Big Baller Brand unveiled Lonzo Ball’s very first signature sneaker, the ZO2 Prime, in a partnership video with SLAM Magazine.
“At the end of the day, it’s up to us, the athletes,” Lonzo said. “We push the culture forward.”
The shoe had been in development over the course of Lonzo’s lone season at UCLA, debuting in black-and-gold-accented colors and priced at a now-infamous $495. LaVar framed the shoe as living between the $190 tier of retro Air Jordans and the $650-plus price of designer sneakers from the likes of Gucci — declaring that Big Baller Brand was here to create an entirely new market.
June 22: Big Baller Brand dominates the NBA draft
LaVar Ball didn’t miss a step on draft night, putting Lonzo in a black bow tie with a black Big Baller Brand logo on it, while he and youngest son LaMelo wore black ties with gold BBB logos.
Within seconds of Lonzo being drafted No. 2 overall by the Los Angeles Lakers, the BBB website debuted a “Sho’Time” colorway of Lonzo’s signature sneaker, featuring the shoe in the Lakers’ home colors.