You might hate them, but you damn sure watch them and know their names.
They are LaVar Ball and Floyd Mayweather, and they are the faces of the Black promotions machine, something we don't normally see in sports, especially in this magnitude. They have watched, learned and eventually run through the battlefield of sports business to the point where they now exert control in a field that wasn't designed for their success.
The Ball hype machine has been in full court press mode for months now, the Mayweather machine even longer. They are led by men who understand their worth and refuse to let others dictate their future. They've successfully used tactics, tools and the system itself to break free of the restraints normally placed on those who try to independently exert their muscle, and now control the narrative.
This week we experienced their strength and vision again, first through LaVar and Lonzo Ball's appearance on Jimmy Kimmel and then Lonzo's hilarious appearance in a Foot Locker commercial.
This Father's Day-inspired ad with Lonzo talking about LaVar though! 😂😂😂 https://t.co/PXglM6cNmP
Then earlier this week, the constantly simmering Floyd-McGregor fight was announced, ending months of speculation, hype and talk, most of it promotional and event serving; brilliant on the part of Floyd, McGregor and their respective teams. But Floyd is no stranger to this. For a man who hasn't fought since defeating Andre Berto almost two years ago, he understands how to remain relevant and generate money. From his successful fight promotions to his social media posts around his extravagant lifestyle, Floyd dictates the narrative of both his career and life.
Before you ask for $25 million, be worth more than $25 million. You have the "2" and the "5" right but you meant to say $2.5 million not $25 million.
372.3k Likes, 41.6k Comments - Floyd Mayweather (@floydmayweather) on Instagram: "Before you ask for $25 million, be worth more than $25 million. You have the "2" and the "5" right..."
Mayweather is uniting two sports that are constantly compared to one another but which hold dislike for each other. He ignited an eruption of debate and hate around his August 26th fight against UFC star Conor McGregor. Even if the physical fight itself is a bust, Floyd has won before he even enters the ring as he made us all care.
And don't lie. You did care because you're probably hating on it but will watch it anyway.
He made boxing and MMA purists and fans dissect the arrangement from every angle and brought the powers of Al Haymon, Leonard Ellerbe, Dana White, the UFC, Stephen Espinoza and Showtime together to complete a complex, big money-generating deal that has never been witnessed before. Two sports which have their own distinct fan bases, revenue models and respect/disrespect for each other will clash in the T-Mobile Arena ring on the night of August 26th.
Mayweather - McGregor: Fight of the Century?
Yet it's the pre-fight promotion that will make this event most interesting and entertaining. Knowing Floyd's understanding of pre-fight hype and acumen for commanding an audience and attention, expect the hype to be on some next level "ish," bigger than the tidal wave created around his fight with Manny Pacquiao over two years ago. Sprinkle in some race-related tension and global interest and you have a fight promotion thriving at insane levels.
Financials were not disclosed but don't think for a second that the $600 million billing of the aforementioned Mayweather vs Pacquiao fight won't be exceeded or that Floyd won't be receiving the lion's share of those proceeds.
Floyd was not alone in the ignition of his promotional machine. LaVar ball, who has also been able to remain relevant despite not even playing a sport, has dominated airwaves for almost a year now. Boasting about being able to beat Michael Jordan, bickering with Charles Barkley and appearing almost regularly on talk shows, LaVar has become a face you're forced to see, and that's exactly what he wants. He recognized a long time ago that as a father, he could control the lives and futures of his family by creating a phalanx where, as the head of the formation, he leads, probes, stabs and clears from the front in order to pave the way for three sons to capitalize on the opening he's carved out.
LaVar ensured that all three of his sons would play for UCLA and then made it clear that Lonzo wouldn't have his eligibility damaged by being a part of the family's BBB brand. He has demanded big money from sneaker companies then went out and created his own line. Now he's informed everyone, including the Celtics, that Lonzo would be going to the Lakers with the #2 pick. He doubled down on Jimmy Kimmel when asked about LA's other hometown team, the Clippers. “They don’t really have a chance, so no.”
There have been polarizing figures in sports who have been successful at cementing their legacy and destiny through athletic accomplishment and control of their personal narrative and brand, but none in the manner in which Mayweather and Ball have done it. They successfully disrupted and changed a system not designed for them and are getting what they want. Floyd controlled his promotion and income and Ball is dictating the direction of his brand and the athletic futures of his sons.
Floyd broke from promoter Bob Arum after his displeasure with the "Pretty Boy" Floyd image Arum was pushing. Mayweather knew that wasn't him nor was it beneficial to his fighting image or career. So he took control, changed the brand focus and went on to change the game of boxing.
LaVar Ball did not have the same type of athletic success as Floyd, but he leveraged his physical attributes and the talents of his three sons into the establishment of the Big Baller Brand, scholarships for his boys and an NBA career which begins next Thursday for Lonzo.
They are manifestations of Black men who exploited negative stereotypes in order to become successful. Loud, flashy, unabashed and unapologetic, characteristics which intimidate and elicit negative feelings from those not comfortable in dealing with Black men who are intelligent and know how to wield their business acumen, physical presence and voice.
Two Black men who basically scream "Say it loud! I'm Black and I'm proud" without having to actually say it. Two Black Fathers, who can provide for their families without having to compromise or allow others to interfere with the direction that they have chosen.
Outside of Jordan and recently LeBron, men who broke from tradition and paved their own paths while still playing, we haven't seen black men challenge the system the way these two have. They have opened doors previously locked by stepping away from tradition and doing it their way. They have protected their brand and vision by keeping it in house. They refuse to compromise and continue to generate attention by promoting their media hawking persona.
Through Mayweather and Ball, we witness the establishment, operation and strength of the Black promo machine. And while some might hate it because it makes them uneasy, challenges the status quo or scares them, it's amazing to see.