- - Monday, May 8, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION

The term “crazy” is thrown around a lot these days.

A plethora of armchair psychologists offer instant diagnoses on criminals and celebrities, pitchers and presidents. I’m as guilty as anyone, too easily applying the label to individuals who demonstrate egregious behavior that’s far from the norm.

In rare and extraordinary cases with serious consequences at stake, real doctors might offer public opinions on, say, a certain newsmaker they believe is psychotic and suffering from malignant narcissism. But sharing such analyses are frowned upon in the medical community and happen infrequently, leaving us laymen to reach our own conclusions.

Such as: “LaVar Ball must be crazy.”

What other explanation is there? The father of likely top-three NBA draft pick Lonzo Ball has launched the Big Baller Brand ZO2 sneakers and priced them at $495. That’s just nuts, right?

“I figure that’s what the shoe is worth,” he said Friday on ESPN Radio. “When you are your own owner you can come up with any price you want.”

The shoes might not be the most outrageous product in the Triple B catalog. A pair of shower sandals will set you back $220. Ball has a reason for that, too: “Prada and Gucci is selling theirs for what they want,” he said. “Ours is better than that.”

A quick Web search revealed Gucci sandals priced from $190 to $495. (I think that’s insane, too, but different strokes, etc.)

Ball’s wild boasting about Lonzo and two younger sons had critics out in full force months before the shoes were announced. Now, the patriarch is being slow-roasted on a 24-hour spit, with athletes, sneaker heads and regular fans all taking turns at the handle.

Fire just makes Ball more brazen.

“Big Baller’s loose!” he wrote Thursday on Twitter as news of the sneaker release spread. “If you can’t afford the ZO2’s, you’re NOT a BIG BALLER!” The tweet included a money bag emoji.

I wasn’t a business major in college. But maybe Ball has a couple of concepts twisted. Many people who CAN afford the sneakers sound like they don’t want them, while many folks who might WANT the sneakers probably can’t afford them.

Of course, the latter is standard procedure for luxury brands, where so-called value resides in the company’s name. If everyone who desires a fancy watch and car could purchase them, owning a Rolex and a Rolls Royce would be like owning a Timex and a Toyota.

Insulting affluent consumers who simply think the product isn’t worth the money is a questionable marketing strategy.

Which means it’s in lockstep with Ball’s modus operandi. He should adopt a popular Billy Joel tune as his theme song: “You may be right / I may be crazy / But it just may be a lunatic you’re looking for”

No one is looking for an obnoxious bully who doubles as a brash blowhard. (On second thought, a surprising number of folks appear to be fond of that personality type, at least lately.)

Ball’s mouth and proclamations make impossible to like and turn his oldest son into a sympathetic figure. Amusing at first, the act has grown wearisome as Ball steamrolls past pride and confidence, blasting into the outer limits of arrogance and cockiness.

However, though I’ve come to despise his approach, his overall objective is admirable. He’s pursuing a concept for his son that far too many athletes (and many of us) never set as a goal:

Ownership.

A certain mentality exists among those who are content to collect paychecks, versus those who yearn to cut paychecks.

Critics of Ball’s negotiations with Nike, Adidas and Under Armor say he cost his son by refusing a standard arrangement that would’ve paid about $10 million over five years. Ball was insistent on a licensing deal for Big Baller Brand, not a basic endorsement deal.

That sort of entrepreneurial spirit is rare, running contrary to mainstream society’s boilerplate “get-a-job” philosophy. Sign a contract and let a company pay you. Go to work for someone else. Look how much money you can make!

Ball views the equation another way and I’m with him. He understands that companies make way more money than any individual employee is paid. Instead of “settling” for $10 million over five years, why not shoot for, say, $100 million over 20 years as management opposed to labor?

Ball could fall flat on his face. His fledgling brand could fill discount bins or be popular giveaways in Third World countries. Lonzo and his brothers could flop or fail to become superstars.

But give Ball credit for taking a shot. Attempts to buck the status quo don’t happen often, and pulling them off is more uncommon. That’s why folks who try are often considered “crazy.”

If you don’t believe me, ask everyone who ever succeeded.

• Brooklyn-born and Howard-educated, Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.

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