A former business adviser and co-founder of the Big Baller Brand recently filed a lawsuit against NBA point guard LaMelo Ball, Puma, and the family brand seeking $200 million in damages.
Alan Foster, who supported the development of Big Baller Brand, filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court of Central California. He alleges that Ball and his company, MB1 Enterprises engaged in various acts including misappropriation, trademark infringement, trademark dilution and other “tortious acts.” In addition, Foster claims that Puma chose to use designs similar to his trademarked designs
Ball, who plays for the Charlotte Hornets, signed a five-year, $260 million contract extenson this past summer and is the youngest son in a family of basketball players. His eldest brother, Lonzo, plays for the Chicago Bulls, while middle brother LiAngelo plays for the Greensboro Swarm. The brothers and their father, LaVar Ball, rose to notoriety after being featured in the Facebook Watch reality show “Ball in the Family.”
After playing high school basketball, LaMelo skipped college and played in various overseas leagues before being drafted third overall by the Hornets in 2020.
Most recently, Ball launched his LaFrance Collection through a $100 million partnership with PUMA. The line is committed to dramatic styles for wearing on and off the court.
Yet some of the designs associated with the brand seem questionably familiar to Foster and he is accusing Ball and PUMA of tampering with trademarked designs.
Accusations of Trademark Infringement and Dilution
In 2016, Foster argues that he supported the Ball family in establishing the Big Baller Brand by providing financing in exchange for a minimum of 33 percent ownership.
The following year, Foster claims that Ball’s parents, LaVar and Tina agreed that he should initiate the development of a brand for the basketball player. As a result, Foster created MB1 and launched his first shoe — the MB1 — while Ball was still in high school.
The lawsuit further argues that Foster laid the foundation for Ball’s success as a basketball player. After being chosen to play for the Charlotte Hornets in 2020, Ball was named 2021 Rookie of the Year and NBA All-Star in 2022.
“Alan executed a business model that helped launch LaMelo into a basketball marketing prodigy,” the complaint states. “For example, the debut of LaMelo’s MB1 signature sneaker was filmed during the reality show ‘Ball in the Family’ on Facebook Watch and published on major sports media outlets. LaMelo was pleased with his own MB1 signature basketball sneaker by BBB LLC. This birthday event launched the beginning of the MB1 global marketing campaign.”
A Soured Business Relationship
Foster was once a close family friend to the Ball family. As the co-founder of Big Baller Brand and the family’s business adviser, Foster oversaw several of their business ventures. But in 2019, cracks in the relationship became visible as Lonzo Ball, who plays for the Chicago Bulls filed a lawsuit against Foster claiming that he’d defrauded them out of $1.5 million.
As a result, Foster was ousted from the Big Baller Brand and sued the Ball family for breach of contract. The company was dissolved in 2020. The Ball family formed a new company, BBB, Inc. Foster alleges that they fraudulently transferred his trademarks to BBB, Inc.
Under this new company Ball was able to sign a $100 million deal with Puma.
“Leveraging their affiliation with LaMelo, Puma has manufactured, promoted, advertised, marketed, and sold, in the United States and around the world, footwear and related apparel that utilized the infringing trademarks and/or other marks that are confusingly similar to the LaMelo trademarks,” the lawsuit said.
“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.”