Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonzo Ball made strong hints that he’s separated from Big Baller Brand, the shoe company founded by his father that’s centered around Ball and his two brothers, in favor of Nike.
On Saturday night, Lonzo posted an Instagram picture where the caption reads: “Moving on to bigger and better #MyOwnMan.”
The picture he posted shows his jersey in the rafters at Staples Center and reads: “It’s only a crazy dream until you do it.” That is the tagline of a recent Nike ad campaign centered around Serena Williams.
Lonzo’s Instagram and Twitter profile pictures were also changed to a childhood photo of himself wearing a Nike t-shirt.
The news comes just one day after ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and Paula Lavigne published a lengthy report detailing the falling out between the Ball family and one of the four part-owners of Big Baller Brand, Alan Foster. In the report, Lonzo alleges that Foster, a long-time friend of father LaVar Ball, “used his access to my business and personal finances to enrich himself.” Lonzo cut ties with Foster as a result.
On Tuesday night, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that Lonzo is suing Foster “in excess of $2 million.” Per the Los Angeles Times, the complaint alleges Foster conspired to take use those funds to buy property in Ethiopia, and that he failed to distribute profits and mishandled tax filings.
The lawsuit saysFoster threatened “to publicly disseminate false and misleading information” about the Ball family, per the the L.A. Times.
In addition to the Instagram post, Lonzo appears to have deleted all social media posts involving Big Baller Brand and his father. LaMelo Ball, the youngest of the three brothers, also commented on Lonzo’s Instagram post, saying, “love u brotha thanks for getting us out my G.”
What happened between Foster and Lonzo?
In October, Lonzo’s financial advisor, Humble Lukanga, alleged that both Lonzo’s personal taxes and Big Baller Brand’s taxes couldn’t be completed because they could not account for $1.5 million in missing cash from the business. Lukanga emailed both Lonzo and LaVar about the issue, claiming Foster refused to show invoices or documentation of his expenses, per ESPN. Foster and LaVar Ball were the only two who had the ability to withdraw cash, so this raised eyebrows. The $1.5 million still cannot be found.
Per ESPN, Foster owns 16.3 percent of Big Baller Brand. Lonzo owns 51 percent, while LaVar’s share is 16.4 percent, and Lonzo’s mother’s is also 16.3 percent.
“Over $1.5 million dollars has disappeared and he has wired over $474,000 to himself through Marathon Consulting (see attached report),” Lukanga wrote in an email he alleges shows a connection between BBB and Foster’s business. “So close to $2 million dollars has touched Alan’s hands but $1.5 million of it has disappeared in cash and can’t be tracked.”
Five months later, Lonzo and the rest of the Ball family officially cut ties with Foster. Lukanga resigned in the fall before being rehired by Lonzo in “recent days,” according to ESPN.
“This has been a very difficult decision as I had a great deal of love and respect for Alan,” Lonzo told ESPN. “But the time has come for me to take responsibility for my own career both on and off the court.”
What do we know about Foster?
According to ESPN, Foster had been close with the Ball family since 2010, when Lonzo became friends with his son. Foster was the business manager for Big Baller Brand and other Ball family companies. LaVar has credited Foster for the original plan for Lonzo and his brothers to spurn top-tier apparel companies in favor of starting Big Baller Brand.
“Alan Foster was more than a trusted adviser,” Lonzo’s personal manager Darren Moore said. “He was a mentor, a father figure and someone Lonzo and I respected, loved and listened to.”
Unknown to Lonzo, Foster had a criminal past. According to court records obtained by ESPN, Foster was sentenced to more than seven years in prison in 2002 for “pleading guilty to one count of mail fraud and two counts of money laundering as part of a scheme that defrauded 70 investors of $4 million. Foster was also ordered to pay $3.7 million in restitution to victims.”
Foster met the Ball family shortly after serving his jail term.
“I’ve always believed in the best in people,” LaVar said in a statement to ESPN. “Regretfully, I put my complete trust in Alan Foster to manage my son’s business affairs. At the end of the day, family comes first, and I support Zo wholeheartedly. Together, we will make this right.”
Lonzo had brought up his concerns to LaVar in recent months, according to ESPN, but deferred to his father’s discretion.
What’s next for Lonzo and his brothers?
According to ESPN, Lonzo has enlisted Lukanga, Moore, and his agent, Harrison Gaines, to sort out the situation and guide him. Gaines released a statement on Saturday night:
It’s unclear if Ball is officially switching to Nike, but none of the three brothers follow Big Baller Brand on Instagram anymore.
In another interview with ESPN, Lonzo said if he didn’t play in Big Baller Brand shoes, he’d wear Kobe’s, and he practiced in LeBron’s due to their heavier weight. Both those shoes are made by Nike.