Lonzo Ball suing Big Baller Brand co-founder Alan Foster

A power schism within Big Baller Brand is headed to the courtroom.

Lakers guard Lonzo Ball and Big Baller Brand are suing company co-founder Alan Foster, accusing him of fraud and improperly taking $1.5 million from company accounts to use for his own ends. Filed Tuesday to California Superior Court, the suit seeks more than $2 million in damages.

Obtained by The Orange County Register, the court filing lays out the narrative of Foster, who previously pled in 2002 and served almost a decade in prison, as a con artist who intentionally got close to the Ball family for a “fraudulent scheme” to shave off the spoils of Lonzo Ball’s basketball career.

The document accuses Foster of misrepresenting himself to the Ball family, particularly patriarch LaVar Ball, who he met in 2010. After Lonzo Ball was drafted by the Lakers in 2017, the lawsuit alleges that he trumped up his business credentials to the family to get them to start Big Baller Brand instead of signing with an established company, then benefited from his control over the corporate accounts.

ESPN was first to report that the family first learned last year that $1.5 million was missing from the BBB coffers, which the lawsuit alleges was invested in Ethiopian assets, so Foster could embezzle it and not pay taxes on the cash. It also accuses Foster of starting other companies in Wyoming (where BBB is incorporated) without Ball’s knowledge, botching tax filings, and overcharging for loan referral fees with questionable authenticity.

Lonzo Ball has since cut ties with Foster, removing him as manager of the company, which recently hosted an All-Star Game for young prospects but whose future is very much in doubt. The company has struggled with customer service and deliveries.

According to the lawsuit, Foster has refused to account for the missing money to Ball.

Per the ESPN report, Foster owned 16.3 percent of the company, while Lonzo owns 51 percent. LaVar owns 16.4 percent and Lonzo’s mother Tina Ball owns 16.3 percent.

Ball traveled with the Lakers on their latest road trip despite being shut down for the year with a left ankle injury. Teammates believe Ball is positioning himself to sign a contract with an established apparel company during the offseason.

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Next year today: The sports highlights of 2018

Time certainly flies, unless you’re in the middle seat of a plane headed to Minsk.

Just as we began to round up the events of 2017, here came 2018, buzzing past us like a shoplifting cop in Shanghai.

In case you’re fuzzy on the highlights, here’s what happened next year:

JANUARY

Alabama loses to Clemson for the second consecutive year, and Nick Saban is fired before a crowd of 85,000 in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Clemson sacks Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield eight times and removes both middle fingers from his Heisman Trophy in a 38-10 College Football Playoff championship victory.

UCLA makes recruiting inroads when Coach Chip Kelly bluntly tells recruits, “We have something in common. You won’t make it in the NFL either.”

FEBRUARY

An American TV crew spends the entire Winter Olympics detailed in the demilitarized zone, unable to explain to authorities that it works for TMZ.

At the NBA All-Star Game at Staples Center, Lonzo Ball goes 1 for 30 to win the 3-Point Tanking Contest.

Promising “higher viewership,” the Pac-12 Network announces it can now be seen in 90 percent of Humboldt County.

MARCH

Yu Darvish explains that he knew he was tipping pitches in Game 7 last year, but thought he was doing it in Japanese.

To speed up games, MLB permits the Dodgers’ Joc Pederson to strike out without coming to the plate.

USC athletic director Lynn Swann reclassifies as a sophomore, wins wide receiver job in spring practice.

APRIL

Dustin Johnson builds an elevator in the house he rents at Augusta, goes on to win the Masters by 12 strokes.

NCAA allows Connecticut’s opponents to use two basketballs, but Geno Auriemma’s team wins its 12th national championship anyway.

Ex-Kings coach Darryl Sutter replaces embattled Sarah Huckabee Sanders as White House press secretary.

MAY

The Dodgers’ Rich Hill becomes the first pitcher to be relieved in the middle of a pitch.

Little Rocket Man, ridden by Kim Jong Un, stuns the field at the Kentucky Derby.,

Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin fight to another 12-round draw in Las Vegas, but Golovkin wins the shootout with a nice backhand to the glove side.

JUNE

In their inaugural season, the Vegas Golden Knights win the newly renamed Terrible Herbst Stanley Cup.

Skip Bayless criticizes LeBron James for picking up three fouls in James’ 52-point, 16-rebound Game 7 performance that gives Cleveland the NBA championship over Golden State.

Shohei Ohtani strikes himself out in the bottom of the ninth to extend the Angels’ winning streak to nine.

JULY

San Diego announces plans to build a 25,000-seat soccer stadium in hopes of bringing back the Chargers.

Honorary captain Derek Jeter sells the American League All-Star team to the National League, setting up a historic Midsummer Classic win by NCAA champion Cal State Fullerton.

Free agent LeBron James fulfills a lifetime dream by signing with his boyhood heroes, the New Orleans Pelicans.

AUGUST

Jim Harbaugh takes Michigan’s preseason camp to Australia, where he is officially 4-0 against Ohio State.

Rickie Fowler wins the PGA Championship and Tiger Woods withdraws with a hand injury. Doctors say it was caused by “hitting too many shots during a round of golf.”

The Red Sox take down the Green Monster “for routine maintenance” as Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge and the Yankees come to town.

SEPTEMBER

NASCAR announces plans to inject more personality into its sport by using driverless cars.

Roger Federer defeats Roger Federer Jr. in straight sets to win his fifth U.S. Open championship.

An exhausted Yasmani Grandal gets a standing ovation at Dodger Stadium for his 23rd trip to the mound in a nine-inning game, breaking the alltime record for a catcher.

OCTOBER

Chip Kelly claims UCLA administrators reneged on a promise to schedule Nicholls State twice a season.

Cy Young Award favorite Brandon McCarthy shuts out the Dodgers in Game 5 of the Division Series and sends Atlanta to the NL Championship Series.

CIF officials approve the Trinity League’s proposal to add the Cleveland Browns.

NOVEMBER

Joe Maddon and his 16-man Cubs’ pitching staff bring the World Series title to Chicago for the second time in three years.

A 3-day marine layer forces postponement of Inglewood Stadium’s opening until 2021.

Ex-UCLA coach Jim Mora makes his movie debut alongside Vin Diesel in “The Furious And The Furious.”

DECEMBER

The USGA and the Royal & Ancient decide against restraining the golf ball’s distance, but will study a proposal to shrink the cup.

The U.S. men’s soccer team asks FIFA if it can play either Trinidad or Tobago next time.

In a change to College Football Playoff rules,  the four participants will be allowed to use the Pac-12 champs as sparring partners.

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Heisler: At least UCLA’s done with LaVar Ball; the Lakers aren’t

LaVar Ball has created a monster. Its name is LaVar Ball.

Last week while he created (more) headlines, pulling middle son LiAngelo out of UCLA, saying he will take him and LaMelo, whom LaVar had already pulled out of Chino Hills High, to play together overseas, the Lakers began barring the press from the family area at Staples Center.

The press called it “the LaVar rule,” since it was clearly meant to keep them away from the out-of-control paterfamilias who had become increasingly critical of the Lakers.

If only silencing him was that easy, or possible …

They could have LAPD lock up the writers and LaVar would come to the jail and hold a press conference as soon as they got out to explain which Laker coaches, players, executives or opponents aren’t giving Lonzo his due.

The Lakers can’t hope to stop LaVar. They can’t even contain him if they keep being so nice, as opposed to having someone – Magic Johnson is the one he might listen to – tell him to shut up already.

From Jeanie Buss on down, the Lakers are gritting their teeth, increasingly unable to endure LaVar’s ceaseless jibes: Claiming they don’t know how to coach Lonzo; calling Luke Walton “soft” for “babying” him; belittling the organization’s commitment (“The Lakers should build around Lonzo. Why are they sitting him down and not starting him in the fourth quarter? This is why the record is raggedy”); zinging teammates like Julius Randle for missing Lonzo on a fast break in the loss to the Warriors since he “had a wide-open layup or a 3-pointer!”

Obnoxious as LaVar is, he’s irresistible to the press. The biggest story of the season hasn’t been Boston’s fast start or Cleveland’s issues. It was Lonzo falling on his face (relax, Laker fans, it’s way early) but mostly LaVar being LaVar.

Local writers would be happy to ignore LaVar, knowing most of their readers just want him to go away. Nevertheless, national outlets – primarily ESPN – cover the team with audiences that can’t get enough of the Balls’ drama as if they’re the Kardashians, just without sex appeal.

Coverage ripples through the internet fanned by social media, exploding in the mainstream press.

USA Today, a relatively sober outlet, has a “Lonzo Wire,” recycling news about the family, noting – droolingly – that the Balls “have more than 6 million followers on Instagram, 900,000 followers on Twitter and 700,000 likes on Facebook.”

Fill in your email and Lonzo Wire will send the latest developments to your account each morning!

“If it has any connection to the Ball family, you will find it on Lonzo Wire,” USA Today promises. “And if you’re a Big Baller, you should find yourself here every day, too.”

Gag me with a spoon.

This isn’t about a basketball-playing family but a loud-mouthed, attention-starved father who at 50 still thinks he could have beaten Michael Jordan one-on-one. In lieu of Mike giving him his shot, LaVar runs his sons’ lives even as they become young men and, supposedly, prepare to leave home for the wider world.

In the bargain the kids are powerless to resist, LaVar is usurping their adolescence, taking them from mere fame into notoriety. So, good luck.

For all the fanfare, Lonzo is their lone NBA prospect to date, difficult as it has been with only occasional flashes that suggest immense potential, as in Thursday’s win in Philadelphia when he turned it up while 76ers fans booed him when he touched the ball.

“I think he’s not going to be good, he’s going to be great,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said recently. “I really believe that. I still think he affects their team in unscripted ways where you’ll never see it in the stats. Very few guys in the league have that disease, where just their actions bleed out to the entire game. …

“But it seems like he’s the target. … Sometimes I’m so happy I was such an awful basketball player as a rookie, I could just go out and play.”

LiAngelo, called “Gelo,” became infamous in his own right after his prank-gone-wrong in China.

Modestly talented on a pro scale, Gelo isn’t projected as an NBA prospect. Even LaVar says he informed his middle son bluntly that he doesn’t expect him to make the NBA, telling GQ – yes, the glossy men’s fashion magazine – “He’s going to be taken care of, either way.”

Thanks, Dad. Who knows, maybe at 19 Gelo should hope for more in life than being “taken care of” as the slug of the family empire?

LaMelo, who was to be a senior at Chino Hills, was highly ranked (No. 7 by ESPN, No. 17 by Rivals), although at his age and size – listed at a twiggy 6-foot-3 and 155 pounds with two or three inches seemingly made up of hair – the NBA is a long way off.

Unfortunately, where Lonzo’s selfless game is blissfully untouched by his father’s grandiosity, Melo shoots whenever he sees daylight, scoring 92 points in one Chino Hills game, missing 20 3-point attempts in another when they lost by 52.

Only 16, Melo is hardly best served by going overseas to play against grown men, much less being targeted by Euro-opponents who read Lonzo Wire, too.

(Yes, players still follow this saga with the same disdain. “Daddy rules so he probably had no say-so,” Houston Rockets guard Briante Weber said of Gelo leaving UCLA.)

Unfortunately for the Lakers, LaVar won’t ever be lucid, or gracious, or accept responsibility. Worst of all, he won’t ever go away.

If LaVar made all this noise with his kid scuffling, imagine how much breast-pounding he will do if Lonzo becomes a star.

Get ready for more: Whatever happens in Lakerdom for the next 10 years or so will be punctuated by LaVar’s self-serving comments about opponents’ unworthiness or Lakers clumsiness.

With the Lakers’ investment in Lonzo, he’s akin to family, making it painful for them to think about confronting LaVar.

That’s the danger. The Lakers will always be conflicted, hoping for the best. LaVar, who’s all about LaVar, never will be.

Mark Heisler has written an NBA column since 1991 and was honored with the Naismith Hall of Fame’s Curt Gowdy Award in 2006. His column is published weekly for the Southern California News Group.

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