LaVar Ball, patriarch of the famed basketball family, has denied that President Donald Trump helped his son, UCLA freshman basketballer LiAngelo Ball, get out of potential shoplifting charges in China.
Speaking to ESPN, LaVar Ball said “everyone” wanted to make it seem like Trump helped the family, and noted that people try to “make a big deal out of nothing.”
Ball’s basketball family has a reality show, Ball in the Family, that airs on Facebook, and his brash style is regularly parodied by Kenan Thompson on Saturday Night Live. The family includes Los Angeles Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball; UCLA frosh LiAngelo; and high school basketball sensation LaMelo Ball, who is already committed to UCLA.
UCLA basketball team members LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hall were caught shoplifting during UCLA’s trip to China to play a game against Georgia Tech. They were confined to the team hotel while authorities investigated the incident and pondered formal charges. All three players returned to the States this week and are indefinitely suspended by the program.
At a press conference following their return, they thanked Trump for his part in freeing them after the President asked them for kudos via his Twitter account.
But LaVar Ball isn’t buying Trump’s intervention with China President Xi Jinping.
“Who?” Ball said to ESPN. “What was (Trump) over there for? Don’t tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.”
Trump boasted via Twitter that the players were facing 10 years in prison before he spoke with Xi Jinping. LaVar Ball previously downplayed the charges, saying it “ain’t that big of a deal.”
“As long as my boy’s back here, I’m fine,” Ball told ESPN. “I’m happy with how things were handled. A lot of people like to say a lot of things that they thought happened over there. Like I told him, ‘They try to make a big deal out of nothing sometimes.’ I’m from L.A. I’ve seen a lot worse things happen than a guy taking some glasses. My son has built up enough character that one bad decision doesn’t define him. Now if you can go back and say when he was 12 years old he was shoplifting and stealing cars and going wild, then that’s a different thing.
“Everybody gets stuck on the negativity of some things and they get stuck on them too long. That’s not me. I handle what’s going on and then we go from there.”
ESPN reported that there was surveillance footage of Ball, Hill and Riley shoplifting from three stores inside a retail center near the team hotel in Hangzhou, China. Sources previously told ESPN that the situation was likely to be resolved in several weeks, but Trump was visiting China and claimed to have brought the matter up with Xi Jinping. Days later, the players were freed.