Ball Sports Group aims to boost Lonzo Ball’s brand – Los Angeles Times
Lonzo Ball’s branding empire is expanding beyond pricey hats and T-shirts.
The former UCLA point guard said Friday that he had picked agent Harrison Gaines, who would work under the newly formed Ball Sports Group headed by Ball’s father, LaVar.
“We’re trying to do things differently, add a little flavor to the game and see what we can do from there,” Ball said while sitting on a leather sofa inside Lucky Strike at LA Live in advance of the Wooden Awards, for which he was a finalist.
Ball said he would be the first NBA client for Gaines, who has worked for a few sports agencies after having played at UC Riverside and Pennsylvania. Gaines’ LinkedIn profile states that he was chief executive officer at SLASH Sports & Entertainment and has a juris doctor degree from the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego.
Ball Sports Group is an extension of sorts from Big Baller Brand, the family line of apparel that includes hats and T-shirts. Each of the letters on the “BBB” logo stands for one of the Ball brothers — Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo. LiAngelo is a senior at Chino Hills High who has signed a letter of intent to play for UCLA next season, and LaMelo is a sophomore who has also committed to play for the Bruins.
Lonzo is widely projected to be selected No. 1 or No. 2 overall in the June draft. He said he hoped to play for the Lakers because they are local and he considers himself family oriented. However, that possibility would require the team to be able to keep its top-three pick in the draft lottery. If the pick falls out of the top three, they would have to forfeit it to the Philadelphia 76ers as part of the Steve Nash trade.
“I’m a big family dude; that’s the reason I stayed at UCLA,” Ball said. “I feel like they have a good foundation over there. They’re starting with Magic [Johnson] now and Luke Walton, I feel like he’s going to be a great coach. I just feel like I can go help the program out and it will be an honor to play for them.”
Ball said he didn’t have a second choice of NBA teams and would be happy playing anywhere.
“Obviously, making it to the league is my dream, my goal,” Ball said, “so once I get there I’ll be grateful for whoever I play with.”
Ball acknowledged for the first time that he had pulled his hamstring early in UCLA’s season-ending loss to Kentucky in an NCAA tournament regional semifinal last month, leading to a poor showing in which he finished with 10 points, eight assists and four turnovers. He struggled to keep up defensively with De’Aaron Fox, his Kentucky counterpart who established a freshman record for scoring in an NCAA tournament game.
“As you can see, 39 points says it all,” Ball said. “He had a great game, I had a bad game and that’s just how it goes sometimes.”
Ball said his hamstring had fully healed and he would spend the final months before the draft working out near his home in Chino Hills with Darren Moore, who handles his basketball training, as well as Ball’s father, who handles his strength and conditioning. LaVar Ball has also served as his son’s de facto publicist, making the rounds with various media outlets to make claims about the family’s basketball prowess.
LaVar recently pinned UCLA’s loss to Kentucky on his son’s teammates, telling the Southern California News Group that “realistically you can’t win no championship with three white guys because the foot speed is too slow.”
Lonzo laughed Friday when a reporter repeated his father’s phrase.
“It was pretty funny when I saw it because it’s not the first time I’ve heard him say that,” Lonzo said. “It’s just whatever’s on his mind he’s going to say.”
Did former UCLA teammate TJ Leaf, presumably one of the players his father was criticizing, give Lonzo a hard time about his father’s remarks?
“Nah,” Lonzo said. “Me and TJ, we’re real cool. He knows how my dad is, so it’s nothing new for us. We’re always talking and we just laugh.”
LaVar Ball backtracked regarding his comments Friday in an interview with ESPN 710 AM, saying he was misunderstood.
“I’m not saying I don’t like white guys and we lost because of them. No. That’s how they twisted it up,” LaVar told the radio station. “ … I blame one person every time they lose and it’s the same person all the time. It’s my son.”