When the Los Angeles Lakers took Lonzo Ball with the second overall pick in this year’s NBA draft they didn’t just get a skilled player they believe will take them to the playoffs but a brand who will put the spotlight back on a fading franchise.
The newest face of the famed Lakers, Ball comes hyped, packaged and market ready for Hollywood, the Big Baller Brand selling seats and sneakers even before he has played a regular season game.
The 6-foot, 6-inch (1.98 metres) point guard, entrepreneur and aspiring rapper is not only preparing to take on the NBA’s best but Nike, Adidas and Under Armour as well with his own Baller Brand apparel and shoe that comes with a Hall of Famer worthy $495 price tag.
Ball may not bring the Lakers a title this season but he has already brought them something nearly as important — attention. There is a no more competitive market place in North American sport than Los Angeles where getting noticed requires more than a 10-game winning streak.
As the Lakers prepare to open their season on Thursday against crosstown rivals the Clippers, there is already plenty of competition for sports fans dollars. The Los Angeles Dodgers are closing in on a trip to the World Series while the National Hockey League and college football campaigns are well under way.
Two new National Football League teams, the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers, have also set up shop since the Lakers last made the postseason in 2013. Yet, despite a steady decline in the standings that reached rock bottom two seasons ago with a franchise-worst 17-65 record, the Lakers are once again the NBA’s hottest ticket, on the secondary market at least, with sales up 130 percent over last year and much of that being traced to the Lonzo Ball affect.
“With the arrival of Lonzo Ball, Lakers fans have renewed hope in the future of their team, which is reflected in StubHub ticket demand,” StubHub spokeswoman Jessica Erskine said. “While young prospects such as Ball and Markelle Fultz of the 76ers have yet to play a regular season game, their arrival can have a big impact on the ticket market, particularly for teams who haven’t made the playoffs lately.”
After one year of college basketball with the UCLA Bruins, Ball entered the NBA to howling hype, much of it delivered by his bombastic father and Big Baller Brand CEO LaVar Ball.
According to the elder Ball, his son’s place with the Lakers had been ordained by the gods, that Lonzo was already better than two-time league most valuable player Steph Curry, would lead Los Angeles to 50 wins and back to the playoffs this season, picking up rookie of the year honours on the way.
“As far as changing the dynamic of the team, it’s not just me, everybody is in here working trying to get better,” said Ball, defusing his father’s outlandish projections with a string of media trained responses. “I love just to play.
“We’re focused on making the playoffs, obviously it is going to be a tough journey but we’re looking forward to it.” While the senior Ball’s predictions for his son are extreme, others have also set the bar high for Ball, who brings size and vision to Lakers.
That potential was on display during the NBA Summer League where Ball collected most valuable player honours. A majority of NBA general managers also agree with LaVar Ball that Lonzo will take league rookie of the year honours.
In an annual poll conducted by NBA.com, Ball was the clear frontrunner for the rookie award with 62 percent of general managers, putting him ahead of second-place Ben Simmons with 24 percent.