NBA Draft 2017: At the combine, pondering Lonzo Ball’s $495 shoes — ‘Come on. No.’

CHICAGO — There is a wide range of personalities and opinions among those gathered here for the NBA’s Draft Combine, more than 60 youngsters pushing for a spot among those picked in the two rounds of the draft next month. But one way to unite them is to bring up the new shoe from their draft classmate, Lonzo Ball, whose ZO2’s sell for $495.

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Notre Dame small forward V.J. Beachem chuckled when the price tag for Ball’s shoes came up. Come on V.J., it’s only 495 bucks.

“No, not now,” Beachem said. “Hopefully, I am getting paid to wear shoes now. I mean, if someone is giving them to me, I will wear them then. “

The good news is that there are plenty in stock, according to the Big Baller Brand website. That wasn’t enough to sway SMU forward Semi Ojeleye, who pointed at his own humble high-tops when talking about the Ball shoes.

“For me, there’s no way,” Ojeleye said. “These (his shoes) are expensive, and they’re too expensive for me. I run through shoes a lot because eventually, they will just blow out or wear out especially if you are running around and playing. Unless someone else pays, that’s too much money to be spending for a pair of shoes out-of-pocket. So I am not paying that. Not out of pocket.”

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It’s not all negativity around the ZO2s here, though. Take Nigel Hayes of Wisconsin. Yeah, he is not going to pay that kind of dough for his sneakers. But, as he sees it, it’s not much different than the other stuff for which folks are willing to blow ungodly sums of money. And he suspects that the backlash against the shoes is a backlash against Lonzo’s outspoken father, LaVar Ball.

“People are going crazy,” Hayes said. “I don’t know if it is because they’re doing it or it’s because it’s a mixed/black family doing it or whatever. But people complain about the shoe being expensive. I think, personally, that the shoe is too expensive for your average consumer and kids who look up to him and want to be like him, that may be a steep price for them to pay.

“Not that he shouldn’t have a shoe, but then at the same time, there are a lot of things that people try and buy to reach a certain prestige in this world — your name brands, your Guccis, your Louises, and all that. You see a lot of people spending their money to walk around with a belt, basically trying to show off the belt.”

Hayes doesn’t see the elder Ball as a tiresome self-promoter, but as a caring parent. That’s not such a bad thing.

“I support what the family is doing,” Hayes said. “Who wouldn’t want a father who supports you like that? I think the world would be better if there were more people that supported and believed in their children like that.”

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Jonathan Jeanne, a native of Guadalupe, took a more philosophical approach, as Frenchmen tend to do. He would re-imagine the shoe itself.

“ZO2s?” Jeanne asked when the shoes were mentioned. “I have no idea. I have seen them but I have no opinion about that because I cannot describe it. I would create a shoe about my family. Something from where I am, Guadalupe. The colors where I am from — blue, yellow, kind of different.”

Jamel Artis, point guard of Pitt, offered a similar thought. He wouldn’t necessarily base a shoe design on his family, but he would put the $495 more directly to their benefit.

“Would I spend that on shoes?” Artis wondered. “No, not at all. I would never do that. I would give that money to my family before I do that. I am sure they are nice and all, but, come on. No.”

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