On Friday evening before the Los Angeles Lakers host the Brooklyn Nets, Ramona Shelburne and Paula Lavigne of ESPN released a sprawling report detailing how Lonzo Ball had to cut ties with Alan Foster, a co-founder of Big Baller Brand and family friend who is accused of having “not adequately accounted for the whereabouts of roughly $1.5 million from Ball’s personal and business accounts.”
That’s obviously a horrible situation for Ball and his family, and the story is a stunning and thorough piece of journalism worth reading in its entirety, with nuggets like Ball being informed of Foster’s criminal history by ESPN, and that Foster was part of the reason that Ball opted to create his own signature shoe with Big Baller Brand rather than sign with an established shoe company.
Somehow, though, that tidbit isn’t the biggest shoe-related information in the piece. Again, you should really read the whole thing, but one of the most relevant pieces of information in it as far as the Lakers go is that the team has looked into whether Ball’s recurring ankle issues could be caused by his shoes, and that while Ball likes his shoes, he’s also willing to play in Kobe Bryant’s signature shoe if the Lakers would prefer.
Lonzo, seen as the future of the Lakers before the arrival of LeBron James, was shut down this season with a severe ankle injury after 47 games. It marked his third separate ankle injury, which left the Lakers searching for what could be the root issue of his troubles -- including asking about his Big Baller Brand shoes.
”Yeah, they talked to me,” Lonzo Ball told ESPN two weeks ago. “They asked me about it, and I told ‘em, ‘I feel comfortable. If I wasn’t comfortable, I wouldn’t play in ‘em. If I didn’t play in [his signature BBB shoes], I’d play in Kobe [Bryant’s signature Nike shoe]. I work out in [LeBron James’ signature Nike shoe], but that’s because they’re heavier.”
Ball also told ESPN that if the Lakers don’t want him to just wear different shoes, he’s willing to make alterations to his shoes if the team wants him to:
Lonzo also said he told the Lakers he was open to making adjustments -- “just minor things,” he said -- to his Big Baller Brand shoes if needed.
Ball was the cause of some buzz in his first and only time playing in Las Vegas Summer League when after he sustained a groin injury during his second game, and stopped wearing his original signature Big Baller Brand shoes afterwards, opting for “Kobe Bryant Nikes, James Harden Adidas, Stephen Curry Under Armours and then a pair of Air Jordan XXXIs,” according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.
This led to speculation at the time that Ball didn’t feel comfortable with the first version of his signature shoe, speculation that was furthered when Ball’s original shoe model was scrapped and remodeled before the first orders even went out. Ball has mostly played in his signature shoe since then, outside of scattered appearances in other shoes or practicing in LeBron James’ signature at times. Ball has also worn the second version of his signature shoe in almost every game this year, if not every single night.
Still, it’s smart of the Lakers to leave no stone unturned when it comes to Ball’s health, and it will be interesting to see if they request that Ball makes any alterations to his shoe or wears other sneakers moving forward. Given the business implications of such a statement, it is probably a positive sign — and sort of shocking — that Ball is comfortable enough to go on record and say he’d be willing to change if the team asked.
We’ll see where things go from here, but if the Lakers or Ball eventually find any reason to believe that he needs to change his shoes for the health of his ankles, they would be wise to do so, business be damned. At least it sounds like they’re on the same page about that.