Coincidentally or not, Lonzo Ball’s rise in play in the NBA’s Summer League has come as he’s moved away from his signature shoe line.
After donning the Big Baller Brand’s ZO2 in his first two games at the Las Vegas circuit, the Los Angeles Lakers point guard has made headlines for switching up both his footwear and play on the court.
For his third game, last month’s number two overall draft pick went with Nike’s Kobe A.D. in the Purple Stardust colourway and had his best performance yet, dropping 36 points, 11 assists, eight rebounds and five steals in a 103-102 win over the Philadelphia 76ers.
Ball followed that showing up by wearing the Night Life version of adidas’ Harden Vol 1 and recording his second triple-double with 16 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds to defeat Cleveland 94-83 on Thursday.
On his decision to wear the Kobe A.D., Ball said on ESPN he wanted to get the “Mamba mentality”, referring to Kobe Bryant’s nickname, and had a similar answer when asked why he then wore the Harden Vol 1.
“‘Fear the beard,” Ball said after the victory over the Cavaliers, invoking James Harden’s trademark facial hair. “Even though I don’t have one (a beard), but it’s just something different.”
LaVar Ball, Lonzo’s father and unofficial hype man, has no problem with his son’s choice of footwear, telling ESPN: “Lonzo is not forced to wear any brand and can play in any shoe he wants as long as it’s OK with the NBA. This is what being independent is all about.”
The Lakers play their final game of their Summer League schedule today against Brooklyn (UAE: 06:00 +1), but through four appearances, Ball has undoubtedly been better when he’s worn a brand other than his own on his feet.
He’s averaging 26.0 points, 11.5 assists, 9.0 rebounds, 5.0 steals, 42.8 per cent shooting from the field and 25.0 per cent on 3-pointers with non-Big Baller Brand kicks, compared to 8.0 points, 8.0 assists, 7.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 25.0 per cent shooting overall and 12.5 per cent from long range with his signature shoe.
Ball, however, believes the biggest factor to his improvement has been his fitness.
“I would say my wind,” Ball said. The first couple of games I was getting tired fast, this was my first time playing in how long.
“Now it’s comfortable and I’m playing the whole fourth quarter, so I feel good out there.”
Whatever shoe he wears going forward, it won’t matter if Ball keeps playing like he has of late.