When Lonzo Ball strutted onstage at Barclays Center on Thursday night after learning he’d been picked second in the annual N.B.A. draft by his hometown Los Angeles Lakers, he wore a black suit with a shawl-collared jacket, a black shirt, a black bow tie and, on his feet, an utterly garish pair of white submarine-shaped sneakers, trimmed in the Lakers colors, purple and gold.
That Mr. Ball was going to be selected by the Lakers was something of a foregone conclusion. Pundits predicted it, and so did his stage dad, LaVar Ball, who in essence told other teams not to consider drafting his son.
Still, nothing is guaranteed. “I’m glad that they picked me,” Lonzo Ball told Darren Rovell of ESPN of his light showboating, “because I didn’t have any other shoes under the table.”
Only those statement sneakers, which were made by Big Baller Brand, the fledgling company founded by his father that, in recent months, has become something of a basketball world punch line. It offered for sale a sneaker, the ZO2, that costs $495 a pair, around three times more than an equivalent from a major manufacturer. (A few hundred pairs have been sold, LaVar Ball said — they won’t be delivered until November.) He also suggested that his company, which also makes shrugworthy T-shirts and sweatshirts, was worth billions, strictly because of the potential of his children: Lonzo Ball is the oldest of three basketball prodigies.
But for now, there are sneakers, prototype sneakers at that. Advertised on Mr. Ball’s feet as he shook the hand of the N.B.A. commissioner, Adam Silver, they looked swollen. They didn’t complement his suit. Instead they were both siren and albatross, marking Mr. Ball as simultaneously individual and an agent of someone else’s desires.
Dressing well has become a condition of true NBA superstardom, be it in Russell Westbrook’s kaleidoscopic fantasias or LeBron James’s steely luxury. The young men in slightly ill-fitting suits on draft night are still a couple of years and a few million dollars away from the expectation of peak sartorial flair.
Even so, apart from Mr. Ball’s gauche self-branding, there were few ripples Thursday night. This year’s draft broke the record for the most freshmen chosen, but the real record might have been for the most bow ties worn by draftees.
When the top prospects took to the stage for a group photo before the draft, De’Aaron Fox playfully fixed the bow tie of Markelle Fultz, who was chosen first. Jayson Tatum and Josh Jackson, selected third and fourth, both wore droopy ones of the kind favored by Academy Award nominees in the late 1970s. Justin Jackson, picked 15th, recalled Orville Redenbacher in a wide-striped bow tie and conservative gray suit.
These Halloween costumes were by and large distractions, though, with a couple of exceptions. Mr. Fox, the fifth pick, had a lovely clover lapel pin on his dark gray suit. And Frank Ntilikina, whom the Knicks took with the eighth pick, looked genuinely comfortable and suave in his suit, a red checkered affair complemented with a spotted bow tie and a pink pocket square. That Mr. Ntilikina is French certainly helped. But throughout the rest of the night, no amount of custom suiting, right down to personalized linings, could hide the fundamental youth of the night. (Special mention here to Justin Patton, selected 16th, and his riot of mismatched 1970s stripes, topped off with a boutonniere.)
And so this will be primarily remembered as the year that Mr. Ball loudly announced his loyalties to his team and to his father, perhaps at his own peril. The major sneaker companies have reportedly declined to work with Mr. Ball, owing to his father’s excessive demands. Which means that Big Baller Brand is both first resort and fallback plan.
As soon as Mr. Ball’s selection was announced, a preorder link went up on the company’s website: Those Laker-color sneakers were available for $495. And in the hours that followed, small (and unverifiable) pop-up announcements appeared at the bottom of the page indicating that someone, somewhere, had decided to shell out the cash for a taste of the Big Baller lifestyle. The thing about advertising is that it works.