Charlotte Hornets’ LaMelo Ball, family business sued for $200M

Lawsuit alleges unfair business practices, fraud, and trademark infringement
FILE - Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball brings the ball upcourt during the first half of an...
FILE - Charlotte Hornets guard LaMelo Ball brings the ball upcourt during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Feb. 27, 2023.(Jacob Kupferman | AP)
Published: Nov. 8, 2023 at 1:30 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A federal lawsuit filed Tuesday in California accuses Charlotte Hornets point guard LaMelo Ball, his family’s business and PUMA of fraud.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of his former friend and business advisor Alan Foster and includes claims of trademark infringement and unfair business practices in addition to fraud.

The lawsuit is the latest in an ongoing feud between the former business advisor and the Ball family. In the lawsuit, Foster claimed he helped LaVar Ball build a business empire based on his three NBA player sons.

In the lawsuit, Foster claimed that he helped the Ball family start the ‘Big Baller Brand’ in early 2016.

In 2017, the lawsuit states, Foster helped LaMelo found his first signature shoe line, the ‘MB1′, released while LaMelo was still in high school.

Then in 2019, LaMelo’s older brother Lonzo—at the time a guard for the Los Angeles Lakers—cut ties with Foster as the Big Baller Brand’s co-founder, according to the Bleacher Report, accusing Foster of stealing money from the company.

Lawsuit claims damages in excess of $200 million

The lawsuit argues that Foster created the groundwork for LaMelo’s commercial success; the 2020 third overall Charlotte Hornets pick went on to become the 2021 Rookie of the Year before being named an NBA All-Star in 2022.

“Given the fame that both Lonzo Ball and LaMelo Ball have obtained through their NBA careers and the worldwide appeal of Big Baller Brand, gained largely due to Alan’s marketing efforts and business acumen, the commercial value of the LaMelo Trademarks, Lonzo Ball Trademark, and BBB Trademark are estimated to far exceed $200 million,” the lawsuit states.

The family ousted Foster from the company in 2019 over financial tensions, according to the lawsuit. After the split, the complaint claims, the Ball family recreated the company under the same name and using trademarked properties that Foster had helped create.

That included LaMelo Ball’s first shoe line the ‘MB1′. The lawsuit says PUMA and LaMelo Ball launched another shoe line using the same name.

Tuesday’s lawsuit is not the first against LaMelo Ball. Last year, Ball’s own publicist Amber Johnson sued him for damages in excess of $10 million, according to the Bleacher Report.

The lawsuit claimed that Ball never paid Johnson the 10% due by contract when she helped facilitate his $100 million endorsement deal with PUMA.

Feud between Foster, Ball family filled with counter-lawsuits, embezzlement claims

The feud between the former business partner and the Ball family dates back to the 2019 split between older brother Lonzo with Foster.

Lonzo sued Foster for $2 million after he learned Foster had served prison time in 2002 for money laundering, ESPN reported at the time.

Foster counter-sued both father Lavar and son Lonzo in 2019 for fraudulent concealment and breach of contract, ESPN reported, in a lawsuit that is still ongoing.

In the lawsuit, Foster claimed Lonzo had embezzled more than $2.6 million from the Big Baller Brand to fund his lifestyle.

“Alan Foster’s claims are not only unfounded and devoid of any truth, but are an egregious attempt to turn the attention away from the millions of dollars that he embezzled from the Ball Family and the Ball Family Business,” the Ball family told ESPN in a statement at the time.

Representatives for the Big Baller Brand and the Charlotte Hornets could not be reached for comment at press time. A spokesperson for PUMA declined to provide comment.