Donald Trump and LaVar Ball Really Do Deserve Each Other

At the start of this year, if you would have told me I’d be interviewing a China scholar about a deal in which President of the United States asks his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, for help to free three UCLA basketball players who’ve been held in a Chinese hotel for allegedly stealing sunglasses, I would have scoffed. If you said that one of those UCLA players was LiAngelo Ball, son of LaVar Ball — proprietor of $ 495 shoes, controversial and outspoken father of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball — I would have laughed even harder.

Bet the under on that one, since I had to call up UCLA’s Shirley Wang Endowed Chair in US-China Relations & Communications, Min Zhou, to talk about LaVar Ball.

In hindsight, however, that LaVar Ball and Donald Trump would cross paths in the frenetic, utterly unpredictable 2017 news cycle was all but inevitable. Before returning home from a 12-day trip through Asia, President Trump on Tuesday confirmed that he asked President Xi, during Trump’s state visit to Beijing, to intervene on behalf of UCLA freshman basketball players Ball, Jalen Hill, and Cody Riley, who were arrested on shoplifting charges while in Hangzhou for UCLA’s opening game against Georgia Tech on Nov. 10. “They’re working on it right now,” Trump said. The players boarded a flight back to Los Angeles today.

“What they did was unfortunate,” Trump told reporters before leaving Manila and returning to Washington. Shoplifting penalties can vary greatly in China, but the players could have conceivably faced multiple years in jail.

Yes, Trump’s rescue of the Ball family is shrouded in symbolism. The President and LaVar Ball are classic carnival barkers who relish the media limelight. (Among LaVar Ball’s most outrageous statements: that Lonzo, the Lakers rookie, is the best player on the planet. He’s averaging 9.5 points per game, on an unseemly 31.3% shooting, for the 6-8 Lakers) They both appeared in WWE matches. They’re creations of our reality show world — while Trump had The Apprentice, Ball offers Ball In The Family on Facebook. They provoke strong reactions, positive and negative. Many people on social media have imagined Trump and Ball holding a joint press conference in the wake of the shoplifting charges. That would be quite a show.

This story, however, is more than an amusing sidelight. It does raise questions about selective justice. While the UCLA players go free, what about the human rights activists still imprisoned in China? “It’s easier for China to release American students than political dissidents,” says Zhou, the expert in China-U.S. relations, in a phone interview. “That’s a much more sensitive issue.”

The high-profile status of the UCLA players likely helped expedite their release. The Wall Street Journal noted that Detroit-native Wendell Brown, who was coaching a local American football team in China, is still in a Chinese jail after a September 2016 bar fight (he was charged with intentional assault).

China’s release of the basketball players carries diplomatic consequences as the world’s two largest economies haggle over trade and the North Korea nuclear threat. “It’s very important,” Zhou, a member of UCLA’s sociology department. “It’s a positive sign that the countries can work together.” The timing of the arrests helped the freshmen. Trump was also in China, on a state visit, when goodwill between countries generally ratchets up a level. Zhou’s happy China didn’t overtly use the detained students bargaining chips with the U.S. But don’t be surprised, she says, if China expects something in return down the road. “There’s still some sort of bargaining involved,” she says. “I’m doing you favor.”

Zhou’s thrilled that the students are returning home. “Kids make mistakes, and they should be given second chances,” she says.

Where does everyone go from here? UCLA coach Steve Alford will likely hand down some sort of suspension for his players. But at this rate, go ahead and expect LiAngelo Ball to hit the shot that sends UCLA to the Final Four, while his dad waves his Big Baller Brand kicks in the crowd. It’s November 2017. Anything goes.


Sports – TIME


Watch LaVar Ball and Ice Cube Go Head-To-Head in a BIG3 Long Distance Shoot Out

For someone who previously claimed he could beat Michael Jordan in his prime, LaVar Ball lost out to Ice Cube in Sunday night’s BIG3 shootout contest at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles. The challenge was brought on after Ice Cube tweeted he would buy ten pairs of Big Baller Brand’s ZO2 sneakers (priced at $ 495 USD each) if he lost, to which Ball accepted this weekend. Claiming “you know I hit them shots with my eyes closed.” Unfortunately, Ball was unable to live up to his words. The video sees Ball and Cube shoot from the four-point markers between the three-point line and half-court, with Ice Cube winning 2-1 over the course of 90 seconds.

The BIG3 League returns to the road again with the next stop at Key Arena in Seattle on August 20.

For more sport-related news, Conor McGregor’s team released sparring footage proving beatdown of training partner.




Why criticizing LaVar Ball is a double-edged sword

As the dog days of summer wind down, where the only major sport on TV is regular-season baseball, LaVar Ball continues to dominate mainstream sports coverage. The most overexposed basketball father in American history has made headline after headline for his increasingly controversial antics. Since Lonzo Ball rose to prominence at UCLA (and then became…
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Michael Jordan: Could beat LaVar Ball with just one leg

Michael Jordan is quite sure he’d beat LaVar Ball in a game of one-on-one … even "if I was one-legged." Months after Ball made headlines by saying he "would kill" Jordan "back in my heyday," the Hall of Famer finally discussed Ball’s comments. "You got to understand the source. I think he played college, maybe?" Jordan told campers at his Flight School basketball camp Monday.?"He averaged 2.2 points a game. Really? "It doesn’t deserve a response, but I’m [going to] give it to you because you asked the question. I don’t think he could beat me if I was one-legged." Ball, the father of? Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball, fired the first shot in March. "I would just back [Jordan] in and lift him off the ground and call a foul every time he fouls me when I do a jump hook to the right or the left," Ball told USA Today Sports as to how he’d beat Jordan. "He cannot stop me one-on-one. He better make every shot ’cause he can’t go…
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