LaVar and LaMelo Ball cause bedlam in Hong Kong as LiAngelo touches down in LA after China lets him go
The eccentric basketball family bring their Big Baller Brand to Tsim Sha Tsui as hundreds line up to hand over their cash – but questions about LiAngelo’s detainment in China are ignored
Hundreds of young basketball fans waited outside the Big Baller Brand pop-up shop in Nathan Road for hours on Tuesday night, hoping to get an autograph and a picture with LaVar Ball – father of Los Angeles Lakers star Lonzo – and his teenage son LaMelo.
But so did a group of reporters – who weren’t there to buy a pair of HK$4,000 trainers or garish hats, hoodies and T-shirts.
LaVar eventually turned up 20 minutes late, flanked by his burly security guards and choosing not to respond to questions about his other son, LiAngelo ball – the UCLA basketball star who was detained on suspicion of shoplifting with two teammates in Hangzhou last week.
“What do you think about Donald Trump helping with LiAngelo?” one reporter asked Big Baller Brand manager and Lavar associate Alan Foster, who was clutching a stack of apparel to sell at the front of the baying throng outside the store.
“What do you think about yo momma?” came his quick-witted response.
The Big Baller Brand was circling the wagons, amid fears LiAngelo could miss the start of UCLA’s season.
The US university basketball team had been in China for a preseason showcase game, with LaVar tagging along to promote his company.
But UCLA left without three of their newly recruited young stars after LiAngelo and teammates Jalen Hill and Cody Riley were held for questioning on suspicion of stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store near the team’s hotel.
They were finally freed to fly home late on Tuesday night, after the US President – who had been on a diplomacy tour stop in China during the incident – interceded with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping on the players’ behalf.
LiAngelo & Co ignored reporters’ shouted questions too as they made their way through the media horde outside Los Angeles International Airport, after touching down late on Tuesday.
“I want to be clear that we take seriously any violations of the law,” said a statement from UCLA chancellor Gene Block.
While LiAngelo may be facing punishment from his university, he may have at least got in his father’s good books by wearing a Big Baller Brand T-shirt for all the cameras following his 12-hour flight.
Back in Tsim Sha Tsui, the same shirts had been sold for HK$500 to the crowd outside the company’s store. “It’s worth it,” said one customer sporting the black and red design.
At least Foster, after his outburst about the bemused reporter’s mother, was nice enough to throw a free hat to a young birthday boy in the queue after he asked nicely.
“This is a polite crowd here,” said Foster. “You don’t get that in America.”
Polite punters or not, LaVar’s personal security detail of two was overwhelmed as the crowd surged forward, breaking into chants of “Big Baller Brand!”
They snapped up any item of apparel bearing the company’s logo that they could get their hands on, as Foster and his colleagues rushed in and out of the store to grab more supplies.
“Put your s*** down and back up,” bellowed one of the burly bodyguards to children and teenagers almost half his size, as he picked out groups of three to enter the small store to meet LaVar and LaMelo.
Extra security guards from the local shopping centre had to be called in, as concerned police officers circled menacingly on the edges of the queue.
LaVar and La Melo had promised to go “overtime” in videos posted to Twitter advertising the event, but promptly left at 9pm despite over a hundred fans still waiting outside – right around the time it was reported that LiAngelo was coming home.
The duo were mobbed amid a sea of smartphones as security barked at the overeager crowd to get back.
Eventually they made it to their minibus and, like LiAngelo, were probably happy to get the heck out of China.