LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball make Lithuanian basketball debut: 6 strangest takeaways
The Ball brothers' first game in Lithuania was everything we hoped it would be
Well, my friends, the Ball family has officially gone international.
Tuesday marked the pro debut of LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball, as they led their Lithuanian team, Vytautas, to a 90-80 win over Zalgiris. With papa LaVar and mama Tina in attendance, LiAngelo finished with 19 points and three rebounds while LaMelo added 10 points, nine assists and six turnovers.
Overall it was a surreal experience, as the game was live-streamed to over 100,000 viewers via Facebook. Here are six of the strangest things we noticed from the entire spectacle.
Big Baller Brand was all over the place
You can say a lot of things about LaVar Ball, but you can't say he doesn't know how to market his brand. Tuesday's game was part of the "Big Baller Brand Challenge Games," and the court was draped in BBB logos -- one at halfcourt, one under each basket, and rotating digital ads surrounding the court. That made the gym look like "Big Baller Brand Arena" at various stages of the game:
The MVP of the game also received a complimentary pair of Big Baller Brand sneakers. The BBB goes international, baby!
Grown men were playing against children
This wasn't exactly an even matchup. The Ball brothers' team, Vytautas, is mostly comprised of players in their 20s and 30s -- like a normal professional basketball team. The team they were playing, Zalgiris-2, is actually a junior team comprised of 16- and 17-year-olds. The announcers were quick to point out that some of the players on Zalgiris were actually younger than LaMelo.
So it was basically like a G League team playing against a high school team. Weird.
The announcers were amazing
Look, these guys deserve a ton of credit for announcing the entire game for hundreds of thousands of people in what I can only assume is their second language (let's see American announcers try to call a game in Lithuanian), but it led to some hilarious moments. They seemed particularly fascinated by the antics of LaMelo Ball, who was doing stuff like this all game:
A small sampling of the announcers' reactions:
After LaMelo's first shot: "His shooting technique is quite weird, but he can score the basket."
After LaMelo tried to dunk but ended up laying the ball in: "He scores almost a dunk."
After a fancy LaMelo layup: "Lamelo Ball adding some spice to his layup. It's not fun to make it simple."
After a wild, Steph Curry-like 3-point attempt: "The shot selection -- it's not really good."
After an ill-advised 3-point miss: "Oh my God, Melo. You don't want to do that."
Here's hoping these guys call every one of their games.
The Lithuanian dancers
Remember the weirdly provocative dancers in the NBA 2K series? They used to be a lot more prominent than they are now, thank god, but every time out 2K had these polygons doing dances and it went on FOREVER. Lithuania sort of did that -- but instead of being scantily clad they were in dresses. And they were dancing in style, too. To be fair, they were really good, but they seemed to have their own little mini concerts within the game.
That was the theme of the game. Little sideshows within the giant sideshow that is Big Baller Brand. Everything was done to generate buzz, and the dancers were no exception. It was like someone had a fever dream of a three-ring circus and projected it onto this game.
First names on the backs of jerseys
I swear, this whole thing was so little league I'm surprised we didn't see "Big Baller Brand" in the place of names on the backs of the player jerseys. Remember in Little League, when local businesses sponsored teams? That's what this felt like. The other team may as well have had "Dairy Queen" patches. And that's what they were. "The other team." Go ahead, ask who the Ball brothers played against in this game. Or, even better, ask who they played FOR.
You knew LiAngelo and LaMelo. The jersey names made sure of that. But there was not a single player that anyone cared about outside of them. They aren't the Ball brothers. It's Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo. And LaVar is going to make sure that you know every one of them by name.
The scoreboard not knowing halves vs. quarters
Full disclosure: I do not know who produced this game for Facebook Live. But they need to be taught about fractions. When I first saw the first quarter winding down, I thought to myself "Huh, that was a fast half." Then the commentator, whom I loved, by the way, said that it was the end of the first quarter. So it seemed like a simple technical glitch, right?
No. They played the entire second quarter with a "second half" label, before someone apparently got in someone's ear and said that you cannot, in fact, have three halves.
They repaired it for the second half, but as someone with (as shocking as this is) a mere passing interest in the ins and outs of Lithuanian basketball, it was very confusing.
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