How a team from a tiny Lithuanian town lured LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball

PRIENAI, LITHUANIA—It was only fitting, perhaps, that an intercontinental escapade exhibiting the awesome power of the present day sports-celebrity-industrial complex began with a late-night direct message on Twitter.

At around 1:30 a.m. on Dec. 6, Erikas Kirvelaitis, a 21-year-old basketball journalist in Lithuania, sent an unsolicited question via Twitter to Harrison Gaines, a sports agent in Los Angeles with two semi-famous teenage clients: Would LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball, by any chance, be interested in playing professional basketball in Prienai?

Kirvelaitis had been hired only a few months earlier to do part-time communications work for Prienai-Birstonas Vytautas, a small club here in the Lithuanian basketball league. His bosses did not know at first about his Twitter gambit. It was a shot in the dark, anyway.

But to Kirvelaitis’ amazement, Gaines wrote back asking for more information. And less than a week later, the young Americans were signing contracts to begin their professional careers in this unassuming town nearly 9,700 kilometres from home.

“It was like a dream, crazy, a miracle, for our club to even have contact with them,” Kirvelaitis said. “But I’m someone who believes anything can be done if you try.”