LiAngelo Ball’s international incident was the impetus to finally bring 2017 the feud it always deserved: Donald Trump and LaVar Ball going at it through the media.
Trump demanded the middle Ball child and his UCLA friends thank him for helping them get out of China after three men’s basketball players were arrested for shoplifting. That caused Ball and Trump to go at it in the media, which was either capped by a LaVar Ball appearance on cable television or Ball sending Trump a pair of ZO2s, depending on your perspective.
Trump called Ball an “ungrateful fool” on Twitter despite LiAngelo’s thanking of the president for his help, but as it turns out there really wasn’t much to thank him for at all. Arash Markazi’s in-depth look at what happened during the incident last year includes a very specific timeline for the incident.
According to the ESPN story, Trump’s involvement clearly comes after everyone else has figured the whole deal out. Trump first found out about the events on November 12, a full six days after the incident, five days after Ball’s arrest, and four days after news of the incident first broke in the United States.
Donald Trump first found out about the situation, according to The New York Times, when members of his staff saw it on CNN just before Trump’s dinner with the president of China, Xi Jinping, in Beijing on Thursday. Trump would later tell reporters on Tuesday, Nov. 14, that he first heard about the situation “two days ago,” at which point he personally asked the Chinese president to look into the matter. The White House did not respond to requests to clear up the timeline, but UCLA sources say they didn’t become aware of Trump’s involvement until Sunday when White House chief of staff John Kelly called the players to say that Trump was intervening on their behalf and that he was optimistic of a quick resolution. A Pac-12 source, who was not present for the actual call from Kelly, confirmed the UCLA sources’ description of the timeline.
“The situation was already resolved by the time we heard about Trump’s involvement,” one team source said. “That’s not to take away from the fact that he got involved, but the players already had their passports back and their flights booked to go home Tuesday night when Gen. Kelly called the players.”
The White House claimed that Trump got Ball and the others out from under “house arrest” and helped their charges get reduced, but according to an ESPN source all of that had happened well before Trump did anything or even knew about the incident.
“The players were already checked into the hotel before the public discovered they were arrested,” a team source told ESPN. “They also were not under house arrest. It was our decision to keep them at the hotel until the situation was resolved. The charges were dropped, they weren’t reduced, and that happened two days before we heard from Gen. Kelly.”
This does bring up the obvious question, one LaVar Ball himself asked at the time: what does LiAngelo Ball have to thank Trump for here? The situation was well on its way to being rectified by UCLA and authorities. Trump made some calls, sure, but well after the damage control had been done and players were on their way back to the United States.
That’s not the narrative the White House went with, though. And it won’t change anything about the situation. Trump got the thanks that he asked for. Except from LaVar Ball, who got the chance to add another rivalry to his growing collection or sparing partners. Turns out Ball was right about this one, though.