Some have said that LaVarr Ball did to the NBA what Donald Trump did to the United States. By saying outlandish things that many wonder if they even believed, both Trump and Ball achieved their desired ends (Trump became President of the United States, and Ball got his son, Lonzo, drafted second overall in the NBA draft). Now, Trump and Ball seemingly have even more in common.
This week, Ball’s second son – LiAngelo, who plays basketball at UCLA – was involved in a legal incident in China. While UCLA was preparing for a goodwill tournament in that country, LiAngelo and teammates Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were arrested for alleged shoplifting. The controversial Ball family seemed at a loss – until President Trump got involved.
Trump happened to be on a tour of Asia, and allegedly dedicated part of his time spent with Chinese leader Xi Jinping lobbying for the cause. Xi apparently promised Trump that the boys would be dealt with quickly and fairly, Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah reported.
Indeed, the three boys were released to UCLA associate athletic director Chris Carson, who said, “we’re doing fine.” The university refused to comment on whether or not they would receive any disciplinary action once they returned to the United States, or who paid for their extended hotel stays while they resolved the matter. Their rooms at the Hyatt Regency were north of $278 per night.
UCLA won their Pac-12 China Game over Georgia Tech, 63-60.
It is highly unusual for an American president to lobby on behalf of his citizens for an infraction so minor. However, it is likely that President Trump took advantage of a public relations opportunity he could not pass up. The controversial Ball family has dominated sports news this year, and working on their behalf is sure to generate buzz.