Sports and Entertainment

Ball Family European Takeover

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Lavar Ball has again and again become the storyline or topic of discussion. Surprising? No. However, he has now ventured into the world of European basketball. Here’s where I come in. Having played thirteen years professionally in Europe, I have a certain perspective on how the Ball family experience will be far from the norm of an American player arriving to a Euro team.

After being cut by the Orlando Magic, my first offer in Europe was in Lithuania. What a coincidence, right? Yes, but a far different offer than Ball and Company. The team, Zalgiris, was coming off a championship season having been lead by ex-UCLA players Tyus Edney and George Zidek. They weren’t happy with the current roster and offered me a chance to come and compete for a roster spot. They were going to bring in four American players to compete for one spot. I graciously declined their offer. I thought it was too far to travel by myself and then have the uncertainty of being on the team. Unlike the Ball’s experience, there was no promise of a 4-star hotel, no ESPN reporters awaiting my arrival, or my family traveling with me. My reality was that the travel would have been long and lonely with little fanfare like most American players. Or, “imports” as Europeans call us. Funny right! Imports! Just like Americans refer to cars or goods!

Lavar has been able to bypass the standard set for American players signing to play for European teams. His sons have no playing experience outside of high school. Compare that to the hundreds of players that finish their college career every year and never get a chance at playing professionally in Europe. What Lavar has done is tremendous! Now, he wouldn’t be able to do that with a team in an elite European League, nor should he expose his kids to elite level Euro basketball at this point anyway. However, he has found a way to control the situation and the environment for his sons in a foreign country. Most of the top leagues only allow two American passport holders per team. This puts an extreme amount of pressure on your performance levels. You don’t perform; the next guy is on a plane coming to take your job. Not to mention that Euro ball is not as easy as many believe. Their shoes lace up the same as ours!

People can question Lavar and his actions and quotes all day long.  Honestly, at times I believe he goes a bit too far. But, I always take the position of “who am I to judge”. This European move has the potential to be a game changer. Lavar Ball created a brand and following, secured a Global Media Partner in Facebook, and opened an opportunity for his sons to play professional basketball. Will it be successful? It’s too early to tell. Nonetheless, a power move has been made and for sure there will be others who will try to duplicate. This has the makings of a game-changing moment in sports. Young players will leverage their talents to decide between college basketball or creating their own marketplace outside of the US. Only one success story is needed and others will follow.    

Now, it’s just up to LaMelo and LiAngelo to Ball or Fall! 

Louis Bullock is a former European professional basketball player who established himself as one of the best American guards to ever play in Spain. Louis played for the University of Michigan and professionally for 15 years for teams in Italy and Spain. While living abroad he became fluent in Spanish and Italian. He is currently co-owner of SQN Systems, an IT company based in Maryland, coaches and trains young players, and is extremely sports-minded and loves all things sports. He considers himself a true sports analyst at heart.

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