There were rumors last week that Adidas ejected a female referee that LaVar Ball took issue with due to interest in signing his son, Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball, to a shoe deal.
It appears that despite that desire, Lonzo signing with Adidas or any other brand isn’t imminent, with Nick DePaula of ESPN reporting that Lonzo is not “currently negotiating with any brands” about either a signature shoe or the co-branding agreement he and his family were seeking prior to the 2017 NBA Draft.
Lonzo and LaVar opted to forgo the traditional route rookies take of signing with an established shoe brand and instead released Lonzo’s signature sneaker, the ZO2, under their own Big Baller Brand label.
Doing so was an unprecedented and surprising move for the Balls, and its probably why when Lonzo began wearing Nike, Under Armour and Adidas shoes during Las Vegas Summer League it led to tons of speculation about whether or not there was a problem with his own shoe or if he’d sign with another brand.
LaVar has said that Lonzo could still sign with another shoe company “if the price is right,” but DePaula makes it sound like that wasn’t really close to the case during the Balls’ initial negotiations with major shoe brands:
No. After meeting with representatives from each of the major domestic basketball brands -- Nike, Adidas and Under Armour -- as far back as December 2016, none of the company reps had an interest in LaVar's offered "co-branded partnership" structure. Up until the Big Baller Brand unveiled the ZO2 sneaker, Adidas was still interested in making a standard endorsement offer.
After each stateside brand passed on expressing interest, Big Baller Brand engaged China-based athletic brand Anta to discuss a potential partnership. Anta currently has traditional sponsorship deals with Klay Thompson and Rajon Rondo, and made signature shoes for Kevin Garnett for his final seven seasons in the league. After a "round of conversations," according to a source, Anta declined repeated requests for a follow-up meeting after Big Baller Brand presented them with a private label manufacturing concept.
It’s unknown if the Balls would back off their desired co-branding structure if a shoe company came forward with a mammoth deal, or if such an arrangement is non-negotiable. Either way, it seems as though nothing is close to changing on that front for now, and Lonzo will likely head into the season primarily endorsing his own ZO2s.
Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.