/Opinion: Big Baller Brand was too beautiful to last

Opinion: Big Baller Brand was too beautiful to last

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The most compelling and incisive conceptual art piece of the 21st century met its symbolic end on Monday in the Instagram story of an NBA hanger-on named Dmo. Properly known as Darren Moore, Dmo has 271,000 followers on a social-media account largely dedicated to proving he is friends with Lakers guard Lonzo Ball, the eldest son of “globally loud” sports dad LaVar Ball and majority owner of Big Baller Brand.

Big Baller Brand seemingly started as the eldest Ball’s ploy to convince a major existing sneaker company to pay big money on a licensing deal, but turned into something much greater when the bigger, baller-er brands didn’t bite. The Ball family unveiled Big Baller Brand’s website in May of 2017, and with it their first signature sneaker: The $495 ZO2, priced as such because LaVar “liked the way it sounds.”

The initial rollout also included $220 flip-flops, which LaVar justified by comparing them with sandals from Gucci and Prada.

He’s not wrong! There is no mass-produced sandal in the world that costs a company $220 to make, and there’s probably no mass-produced sandal in the world that costs a company more than, like, $2.20 to make. People pay for labels and if you’re ridiculous enough and outspoken enough that people are going to keep putting you on TV even after you’ve claimed you can beat Michael Jordan in 1-on-1 , you might as well try charging people $220 for some shower shoes.


Lonzo Ball (left) and LaMelo Ball at LaMelo Ball’s 16th birthday party (PHOTO: Joshua Blanchard/Getty Images for Crosswalk Productions )

There’s a sucker born every minute, like P.T. Barnum said, so people actually showed up when the Balls launched a Times Square pop-up shop to hawk Big Baller Brand’s outrageously expensive merchandise. After the company got a failing grade from the Better Business Bureau for its inability to fulfill online orders in a timely matter, the Balls reduced the price of the second generation Z02s to $200 to make them “accessible to kids” and added a very subtle disclaimer to the website stating that the shoes would take four months to ship.

But as it turned out, the people charging up to $500 for sneakers that may or may not ever show up were themselves being defrauded. A recent ESPN report revealed that Alan Foster, an ex-con and LaVar Ball’s close friend who owned a 16.3 percent stake in the company, took Big Baller Brand for $1.5 million.

That development led Lonzo and younger brother LaMelo to scrub their social-media accounts of all references to Big Baller Brand, which is how people indicate breakups in 2019. Then Dmo symbolically dropped a pair of ZO2s down a garbage chute with the hashtag #dumpurmerch, which really only makes sense in the warped contemporary reality that Big Baller Brand — intentionally or otherwise — skewered with its very existence.

Getty Images

The $495 ZO2 sneakers, as modeled by Lonzo Ball at his introductory press conference with the Lakers. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)

If I paid $495 for some sneakers last year, why am I going to throw them out just because some dude stole money from the company? Do I get my money back if I do? If they no longer have the endorsement of Dmo, do they no longer protect my feet from the ground?

LeBron James Himself weighed in on his teammate Lonzo Ball’s split with Big Baller Brand, and sadly, the sneaker game is lousy enough to make LeBron James Himself sound like kind of a stooge. The whole thing is a racket, obviously, and while presumably some sneakers really do provide better support than others, there’s probably little to no correlation between cost and quality in an industry practically built upon conspicuous consumption.

And nothing has ever really satirized that better than Big Baller Brand, as spoken into existence by LaVar Ball. Something are just too perfect to last. We’ll always have the memory of that Christmas sweater.

Monday’s big winner: This friend of the fish


Technically this happened Sunday, but we missed it due to basketball stuff: At a PGA Tour event in Tampa, an osprey hooked a fish but couldn’t quite reel it in, a rare win for gravity in its ongoing rivalry with birds. The fish fell onto a patch of rough near a spectators’ area, so one golf fan heroically hopped a fence, picked up the fish, returned it to the pond, and threw his hands up in triumph as the crowd roared. It is the most exciting thing to ever happen in a golf event.

Quick hits: Eminem, billabongs, Baker

– You ever watch football and wonder, “hey, how cool would it be if this sport were more violent?” Eminem does, so he took to Twitter to encourage the fledgling Alliance of American Football to allow fighting during games. Johnny Manziel is on board. Slim Shady would also like a team in Detroit, predictably enough.

irreverent and incisive sports stories

Petco Park in San Diego (Photo by Maxx Wolfson/Getty Images)

– Monday marked the opening round of our Ultimate Stadium Bracket. There’s still time to vote, but it looks like Fenway Park is going to beat Petco Park. That’s both unsurprising and incorrect. The Red Sox have way fans than the Padres do, and Red Sox fans still somehow seem to wear big chips on their shoulders even now that they win the World Series every other year. Fenway is iconic and historic and interesting to look at, but it’s a mess to get around and an uncomfortable place to watch a baseball game. Petco is perfect, and I will stand by this take.

– The video in this post might be Peak Australia. The dudes are getting chased by a crocodile, and they’re only worried because it’s going to eat the barramundi they just caught in the billabong.

– Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield did his best sportswriter imitation, taking to Twitter to complain about air-travel inconveniences. Sadly, ripping brands on Twitter turns out to be a shockingly effective way of getting results even if you have 1/50th of Baker Mayfield’s following — one time I got a health insurance claim settled just by whining about it enough online — but it’s never the best look. I recognize that now, but all bets are off next time I’m booked on a flight that gets canceled.

This day in dumb sports

Can you remember March of 2014? I can’t; it happened roughly a million years ago. But it was on this day in that year we learned about horse wakeboarding. Life hasn’t been the same since.