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Lonzo Ball’s Foot Locker Ad Is the Oldest — and Best — Trick in the Book

Self-aware humor is the best way to tackle a stigma head-on

(Foot Locker)
(Foot Locker)

Even before Tyronn Lue arrived at his post-Finals press conference Monday night, Lonzo and LaVar Ball were sitting on the Jimmy Kimmel Live! couch, channels away. Lue would go on the podium and say that he doesn’t "see a big gap" between his Cavaliers and the Warriors; LaVar, sitting next to his son, was on his own podium.

And since the Ball family has been in the national spotlight, promoting Big Baller Brand or Lonzo’s NBA prospects, that’s how things have gone. LaVar talks Big talk; Lonzo does not. Within a minute of Lonzo joking that he wouldn’t be around long enough for the Clippers to draft him even if the Lakers don’t, LaVar was offering to coach Kimmel’s 2-month-old son into a basketball player. "Only one trainer can do that, it’s me. … Here’s the key. Don’t let [the 2-month-old baby] wake you up. Wake them up."

People either love LaVar’s mind-set: He wants the best for his kids; or people hate it: He’s going to talk his kid out of millions of dollars. Or people really hate it. And Lonzo, for the most part, looks pretty OK with all of it. In the late-night segment, Kimmel leans close to Lonzo and asks him to blink three times if he needs help.

So two days later, when Foot Locker dropped a Father’s Day ad on Twitter featuring Lonzo and 2017 draftmates De’Aaron Fox, Jayson Tatum, and Jonathan Isaac, the twist was Shyamalanian.

It starts like a 99-cent Hallmark card: "Dads are special," Isaac says, "so many memories," and your eyes either begin to glaze over or tear up in direct correlation to which cup of coffee you’re on. Tatum shakes his head in homage to his dad "just never missing a game."

Then the camera cuts to Lonzo, and before it hits that he is going to publicly say something about his outspoken dad without his outspoken dad half a foot away, he’s already speaking.

"Of course there’s that big day, when your dad berates your high school coach in front of an entire crowd for not getting you enough touches." Music swells, and you get it. A joke cracked to benefit a company that has not publicly agreed to carry Lonzo’s BBB shoes.

It’s remarkably self-aware and a move out of the Saturday Night Live playbook. The show has used this format of blunt reckoning for decades. It imparts a touch of normalcy to whatever controversy or stigma has been created, an "I know that was wild, too" from the addresser. Alec Baldwin still generates punch lines by bringing up his infamous 2007 voicemail.

Jessica Simpson owned her "Chicken by the Sea" gaffe with a spoof on SNL, Richard Pryor used an incident where he intoxicatedly set himself on fire as stand-up material for years, and in Dave Chappelle’s new Netflix special he owns up to messing up a stand-up performance in Detroit. This isn’t even the first time Foot Locker has used this strategy to disarm a conversation around an athlete. Lonzo doesn’t even have anything to atone for. His only sin is being the son of a helicopter parent. Recent reports of the Lakers considering taking other players, after, like Lonzo says in the commercial, LaVar "[told] 29 out of 30 teams not to bother drafting" him, make the timing of Foot Locker’s ad all the more entertaining.