The long-awaited pro debut of Ball siblings, LiAngelo and LaMelo is finally over. The brothers took to the floor to play for Lithuanian club Vytautas Prienu (Lithuania-LKL). The team faced off against Lithuanian powerhouse, BC Zalgiris Kaunas’ reserve team. A total of 1.6 million people watched the game on Facebook, which turned out to be a huge marketing success, for the Big Baller Brand (BBB), an ambitious shoe business venture owned by the Ball brothers’ father, LaVar Ball. The shoe company became a huge sponsor of the team as part of contractual agreements set in place when the young players signed on with the team in 2017. The court and even the referees’ uniforms bore the BBB logo. The game was part of the “Big Baller Brand Challenge,” which is a series of pro games between Vytautas and some of Lithuania’s top teams.
The revamped court here in Prienai, Lithuania for the debuts of LaMelo and LiAngelo Ball. Will be live on Facebook at 1:30 ET. pic.twitter.com/gGeLkNdYIm
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) January 9, 2018
The 19-year-old LiAngelo started the game, while 16-year-old LaMelo came off the bench. Both players flashed some of their basketball skills and athleticism but made some very questionable shot choices in the game. Clearly, there is some maturing needed by both of them, but that’s exactly one of the main reasons their father pulled LiAngelo out of UCLA and canceled LaMelo’s commitment to the school. He felt that an immersion in pro basketball in Europe, under his guidance and supervision would be superior to what the UCLA basketball program could deliver.
The Ball-Vytautas relationship is not all great. The Basketball Challenge conceptualized by LaVar Ball forced the team to pull out of the Baltic League in order to make the schedule. The team has been fined 5,000 Euros for already forfeiting a non-televised event. This would make it Vytautas’ second forfeit of the season already and as FIBA Rules Article 20.2.3 states, if in a tournament the team forfeits for the second time, the team shall be disqualified from the tournament and the results of all games played by this team shall be nullified.
The Baltic League board will meet and decide final sanctions to be handed out to the team.