LaVar Ball, the aspiring shoe entrepreneur and impresario of his family’s soap opera, fired the latest dart in his verbal spat with President Trump on Tuesday, saying in an interview that he had never been thanked for the “patriot” shoes he had mailed to the White House.
Ball told CNN’s “New Day” that he had sent the president three pairs — red, white and blue — of Big Baller Brand shoes (the signature shoe goes for $395 a pair) to “show him that we’re patriotic” but “didn’t get a thank you.”
However, he added, “I ain’t going to stress it out.”
It’s the latest salvo in the war of words with Trump that began when the president called him an “ungrateful fool” for failing to thank him for helping secure the release of Ball’s son, LiAngelo, and two other UCLA basketball players who were arrested for shoplifting last month in China. “It wasn’t the White House, it wasn’t the State Department, it wasn’t father LaVar’s so-called people on the ground in China that got his son out of a long term prison sentence — IT WAS ME,” Trump tweeted. “Too bad! LaVar is just a poor man’s version of Don King, but without the hair.”
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) December 5, 2017
This began when Ball accused Trump of doing little to help with the release of the players. “Who?” Ball told ESPN’s Arash Markazi when asked about Trump’s involvement in the matter. “What was he over there [on the Asian trip] for? Don’t tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.”
Trump retorted on Twitter: “Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail!”
Ball’s latest comments came a day after he pulled LiAngelo out of UCLA, saying he would train him for the NBA draft next spring himself. LiAngelo, along with the two other UCLA players, was suspended indefinitely upon their return to the United States after the incident, which occurred in Hangzhou while the team was in China for a game. In a “Today” show appearance Tuesday, LiAngelo said that he and his now-former teammates were out shopping when “people starting taking stuff.”
“We left thinking we’d just get away. You know how kids think,” he said. “I didn’t realize til I got back to my hotel, I’m like, ‘That was stupid.’ But by the end, it was too late. Sure enough, the next morning, the police came and got us.”
He estimated that he, along with fellow freshmen Jalen Hill and Cody Riley, spent about a little over a day in jail.
“It was horrible,” LiAngelo said of the jail. “They take your clothes. You wear whatever they have for you, a little jumpsuit or whatever. Take your shoestrings. You just sit in a cement cell for however long. It’s just you and all the officers, and they don’t speak English.”
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) December 5, 2017
Now, LiAngelo wants to play basketball and, given that his father only intended for him to stay in college for one year, an indefinite suspension is taking away precious time from preparing for the draft. Unlike Lonzo, his older brother who was the Lakers’ No. 2 pick in June, LiAngelo is not a prized prospect. Ball, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted, “has no chance that he’ll be drafted in June — and that was true before his shoplifting incident in China. ‘He’s not on any of our scouting lists — even the extended lists,’ one GM told ESPN.” Still, his father is undeterred.
“The grand plan stays the same. All these boys are going to be on the Lakers,” he said of his three sons, the last of whom is in high school. “Watch how I do this. People are going to look up and say, ‘Wow. How did they all get on the Lakers?’”
If they don’t make it, well, there’s no Plan B.
“I ain’t got no fallback plan,” LaVar said. “Because if I got a fallback plan, that means I’m going 80 percent this way and 20 percent to my fallback. I’m 100 in. So I never get stopped.”
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