LaVar Ball's Lithuania experiment reportedly ended in boredom and sadness

LaVar Ball (R) has pulled sons LaMelo (L) and LiAngelo out of the Lithuanian Basketball League that heralded their arrival. (AP)

LaVar Ball officially pulled his sons LiAngelo and LaMelo out of the Lithuanian Basketball League following a dispute with BC Vytautas Prienai coach Virginijus Seskus about his youngest son’s playing time, thanking a mostly empty gym for the support Lithuania showed his family the last three months.


The three month experiment proved beneficial for BC Vytautas, which cashed in enough on the Ball family’s fame to keep the financially struggling franchise afloat for another season. By the end, though, everyone tired of their act, according to Lithuanian basketball reporter Donatas Urbonas.

“The third month was kind of sad,” Urbonas told USA Today. “I don’t know if you saw, but during the games that we broadcasted on Facebook, you could tell that there wasn’t many people in the stands. Also, the Facebook numbers decreased a lot. Comparing to the first games where we had more than 100,000 people watching, and then in the end, it was like 5 or 6,000 people. It was a picture of the overall attention in Lithuania. We got bored, people got bored. Mostly because we saw that LaMelo can’t perform at the pro level yet, and most of the people were irritated with the LaVar and Coach Seskus stuff that hurt the team. Also, some of the players had a bad approach to LaMelo and LiAngelo, so these inside conflicts were damaging to the overall image in Lithuania.”

It is no surprise, then, that this partnership lasted less than one season, despite the Ball brothers signing on for the remainder of the year in February and LaVar publicly stating that LaMelo would remain in Lithuania for two more years until he was eligible to declare for the NBA draft in 2020.

LaVar has clashed with every one of his sons’ coaches, from high school to UCLA and Luke Walton on the Los Angeles Lakers, and the BC Vytautas staff knew what they were getting into. They got what they needed out of the Ball family — increased exposure, enough money to pay the rest of their players and LiAngelo, who was a productive role player before his ankle injury derailed his season.


The question for LaVar is whether he got what he wanted. The audience for BC Vytautas games was much higher outside Lithuania, as Ballislife regularly drew hundreds of thousands of views on Facebook.

But there are real questions about the experience’s impact on LaMelo. He practically took a year off from competitive basketball at age 16, shooting just 23.9 percent over nine appearances in Prienai. He didn’t play on a team that sits in last place and will likely be relegated to Lithuania’s second-tier league. This was LaVar’s biggest point of contention with Seskus, who said the youngest Ball isn’t ready and doesn’t play defense — not great for LaMelo’s prospects looking for work next season.



“I’m kind of scared about Melo because he was not playing much this season,” Urbonas said in his interview with USA Today. “He didn’t play at a high level, and Coach Seskus is never known for good practices. So, I’m afraid it was like a setback here for LaMelo.”

There is also some question as to how LiAngelo benefited. He played well against Lithuania’s top competition as a sometimes-starter over 15 games. It’s unclear how much he would have seen the floor at UCLA after his suspension for shoplifting in China, but at least there he would have been on a development track. He has declared for the NBA draft, but isn’t expected to be selected, and Urbonas told USA Today that top European clubs are not expected to express interest in either of the Balls.

“But I feel like there might be another team like Prienai, which had nothing to lose, and might sign him,” added Urbonas. “There’s the big plus because Lithuania got so much international attention. And I believe there are some clubs in Europe that want the similar attention, to raise their status, to raise their financial situation. They might try it and have the Ball family there.”

In which case, LaVar will have another coach to complain about and someone else to blame for his younger sons not being the NBA prospects that their older brother Lonzo was as a No. 2 overall pick.

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Ben Rohrbach is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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