Jay Z may be a former part-owner of the Brooklyn Nets, but it’s a young Los Angeles Lakers point guard whose shoe brand he’s supporting with his wallet.
During an appearance on TIDAL’s “Rap Radar” podcast, Jay Z admitted he respects Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball and his father LaVar Ball’s vision to blaze their own trail by creating Big Baller Brand and their own signature shoes (transcription via SLAM, and some language NSFW).
“LaVar Ball, he said, ‘I’m gonna start my own company.’ Everybody’s like, ‘You should sign to Nike.’ He may go about things wrong. He may have a big mouth. But I bought three pair. I didn’t get ‘em. But that man has a vision of his own. Why wouldn’t I support him?” Jay Z said. “He feels like he can move culture and his son got a big enough name and a big enough brand that they can do it. Nike had to start somewhere.”
On a base level, there are parallels between what the Ball family is trying to do with Big Baller Brand and what Jay Z tried to do in building his own music subscription service TIDAL.
Jay Z saw other, larger companies making a profit off of streaming his music and decided that rather than stay in his lane, he would try to cut out the middle man in a similar fashion the Balls later would. The internet roasting TIDAL receives anytime something goes wrong for the service is also probably why Jay Z can empathize with the backlash the Balls received for the price and look of the ZO2s.
“Why do we get so upset when we, as a culture, want to start our own shit? That shit is puzzling to me. I sit back and I’m like, this makes no sense. Why can’t he start a sneaker?” Jay Z said. “‘Oh, his sneakers are terrible.’ Remember, I’m not being negative towards anyone. I’ve seen some bad sneakers from Under Armour. I’ve seen bad Michael Jordan sneakers.
“Michael Jordan obviously is the greatest. At some point he was selling for Nike and at some point he broke away and he started building the Jordan Brand. I’m sure that was difficult. And I’m sure people at that time, when he was building the Jordan Brand, was like, ‘You playing yourself. You’re gonna leave Nike?’ Man, all due respect, fuck Nike.” Jay Z said.
With all due respect, “All due respect, fuck Nike” is possibly one of the funniest uses of “all due respect” of all time, but Jay Z was trying to make a larger point rather than go at the swoosh.
“I don’t mean personally, I mean like fuck the thing. Everyone has this reverence towards these things. I’m sure when we walked in and started Roc Nation, everyone looked and said ‘Universal’ or Def Jam. Like, we built the brand. It can happen. We are culture. Nothing moves without us. We just continue to give it away. And it’s cool. Everyone can participate. Nike still works with Jordan. It’s just the nature of our relationship has to change,” Jay Z said.
Jay Z has a point. The internet is quick to mock literally everything, so the backlash against the ZO2’s, TIDAL or even Roc Nation should always be expected. The thing is, if those things succeed they become accepted and part of the norm.
If the ZO2’s end up being great shoes, or more importantly if Lonzo Ball ends up being a great player, his brand will likely be a success. If the shoes are terrible and/or so is Lonzo, then people are going to continue to mock them.
We won’t know which will be the case for quite a while, but what we do know for sure is that in showing his support for Big Baller Brand’s vision by buying three pairs of $500 ZO2’s, Jay Z is confirmed as the planet’s biggest baller.
Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.