LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball delight crowd at pro debut in Lithuania
PRIENAI, Lithuania — Some things in Lithuanian basketball can get lost in translation. The fans blow horns. The cheerleaders dance to Lithuanian folk songs. The pro basketball arena seats 1,500 in a town of under 10,000.
However, some aspects transcend cultural boundaries and international datelines. Take 19-year-old LiAngelo and 16-year-old LaMelo Ball. The unproven basketball prospects and proven social media pop stars from Chino Hills didn’t need translators for the packed house in their pro debut here Tuesday night.
LaMelo throws a behind-the-back pass on a fast break, and the crowd explodes. LiAngelo powers a dunk. Same thing. Father LaVar Ball poses for selfies with seemingly every one of the 1,500 fans? Well, they loved that, too.
BC Prienu Vytautas’s LiAngelo Ball in action during the Big Baller Brand Challenge friendly tournament match between BC Prienu Vytautas and BC Zalgiris-2 at the BC Prienai-Birstonas Vytautas arena, in Prienai, Lithuania, Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018. LiAngelo Ball and LaMelo Ball, sons of former basketball player LaVar Ball, have signed a one-year contract and play their first match for Lithuanian professional basketball club Prienu Vytautas. (AP Photo/Liusjenas Kulbis)
Then again, also not lost in this basketball-savvy country is LaMelo committing six turnovers and throwing up bricks near the Belarus border or LiAngelo missing cripples and getting BBQ’d occasionally on defense.
The crowd was forgiving, of course. They know, as well as much of the basketball world who turned their attention to this tiny town in the Lithuanian woods, this was a rough debut. LiAngelo hadn’t played an organized game since UCLA’s first exhibition; LaMelo’s last game was in the AAU summer league.
They debuted for a team in Lithuania’s highly respected LKL league with cameras, ranging from ESPN to Facebook’s reality show, following their every step. And misstep. In an outcome everyone forgot about before they left the gym, […]