Q&A: Valanciunas reveals secret behind ‘Itty Bitty Ballers’

Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey talks about the play of Jonas Valanciunas.

By now you’ve seen and heard about the acting job from Jonas Valanciunas.

The Raptors centre is the face of the “Itty Bitty Ballers” campaign promoting his fictional small business.

Although JV’s “Itty Bitty Business” is fake, the figurines are real, most of which were sold out on IttyBittyBallers.ca less than 24 hours after the campaign went viral via social media. As of this writing, all nine of the figurines are sold out.

To meet the unexpected levels of demand, Go Daddy is commissioning more figurines be made. The original poses ranged from JV thinking, riding a Raptor, to dabbing, and even doing the splits. The proceeds from the sale of the “Itty Bitty Ballers” goes to the MLSE Foundation charity. The figurines were produced by a local Canadian small business called Selftraits that specializes in 3D full-body image scanning.

The Lithuanian’s partnership with Go Daddy has exposed him to a unique fan base and shown him in a different light than his traditional on-court persona.

On the heels of his 18-point, 23-rebound performance in a win over the Boston Celtics Wednesday night, I caught up with the Toronto Raptors‘ top big man to discuss what the phenomenon around the miniature version of him is like and what his favourite pose is.

Donnovan Bennett: You are the last person I’d picture saying the words “itty bitty.” How’d the “Itty Bitty Ballers” campaign come about?

Jonas Valanciunas: I thought it was a cool idea to do it. I used Go Daddy before so that was kind of funny because I created my own website and I got help from Go Daddy so it was cool to work with them. I jumped at the chance to do something more with them. The whole idea was great to create the “Itty Bitty Ballers.” Everything worked out even better than I thought.

DB: What about the script intrigued you?

JV: It was more about the idea of how they wanted me to look on the commercial. That’s the biggest thing that I liked. Actually making the Bittys and selling them for funds. That’s what I liked.

DB: Your foray into acting was so strong you might have a Golden Globe award in your future. How’d you find being an actor, not an athlete, for the first time?

JV: I don’t know about any Golden Globes (laughs). I was just being myself and enjoying it. I had a great time filming all of this. We had some laughs and funny jokes doing it. It was fun to do and other people benefit. If you can have fun and help other people, it is good to do.

DB: Your personality in the commercial and that I see being around your team is much different than your on-court persona. Why do we see two drastically different sides of JV?

JV: Basketball is my life. Basketball is what I live for. I try really hard to be professional and bring it on the court every night. When something comes along like this it is fun to do. You enjoy it because it doesn’t happen for everyone and it won’t be coming to me forever. But with basketball I have to be more serious.

DB: You are showing more of your emotions and true personality now than you ever had. Are you more comfortable in your own skin?

JV: Toronto is a great city. I’ve been here since Day 1. This is my second home. Home is always home. Lithuania is going to stay my home forever but I find myself really comfortable here in Toronto. I like living here. I like the people here. It is more of a European culture. You can find everything here. I like being where I am right now.

DB: What has been the reaction in the locker room?

JV: Oh, they are making fun of me now (laughs). I gave each person a reason to make fun of me. They are asking me if I’m really making that at home and if I’m really into arts. They are just killing me making fun of me.

DB: There was some misconception early on. Have you had to clarify that it was a fictional commercial?

JV: Yeah, especially on social media I get a lot of questions about me being an artist making them in my workshop (laughs). They ask if I’m doing all of this stuff on my own. We should not forget that I’m first of all a basketball player. That means we did a great job, right. That was a great commercial. That’s why we get such big engagement.

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