Finally, the two loudest humans of 2017 have set their sights on each other. Donald Trump and LaVar Ball have said each others’ names, and the defining battle of our time is upon us.
Let’s recap this whole dumb story. This all began with UCLA playing a basketball game in China, featuring Ball’s middle son, LiAngelo. LaVar saw this as an opportunity to prove his shoe company, Big Baller Brand, had gone international, and opened a pop-up shop in Shanghai. LiAngelo saw this as an opportunity to visit some other shops, and take stuff from them without paying, and was arrested along with two other teammates for shoplifting. (“If you can’t afford it, you’re not a Big Baller”—Lavar Ball.)
Breaking the law is always a bad idea, but it’s an especially bad idea in a foreign country with a strict government, like China. Luckily, President Trump was in China at the same time, and reportedly talked to Chinese president Xi Jinping about freeing the UCLA players. Sure enough, the players were back in America within two weeks.
Did Trump actually get the players back to America? ESPN’s Arash Markazi, who covered the story from start to finish, reported that most felt the players would have been returned to America within two weeks regardless of Trump’s involvement. (Also helping the players: The CEO of Chinese tech giant Alibaba, Jack Ma, who had met with UCLA’s team before the shoplifting incident and reportedly lobbied on their behalf.) But it’s reasonable to assume that Trump’s request helped somewhat: As Yahoo Sports’ Dan Wetzel wrote last week, there are American athletes currently in Chinese jails who seem unlikely to go anywhere without international assistance.
And so Trump asked for credit:
Do you think the three UCLA Basketball Players will say thank you President Trump? They were headed for 10 years in jail!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 15, 2017
Sure enough, LiAngelo did thank him!
But LaVar doesn’t really like to give anybody else credit for anything. And so:
"Who?" LaVar Ball told ESPN on Friday, when asked about Trump's involvement in the matter. "What was he over there for? Don't tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out."
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!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2017
Who is in the right here? Well, nobody: LaVar Ball probably shouldn’t be continually downplaying the international legal incident his son just got into, and the president shouldn’t be implying that three young American men should be imprisoned in a foreign country because one of their dads didn’t thank him enough. (Hypothetically, it’s a President’s job to do things that help American citizens regardless of how much credit they get for it.)
Perhaps you’d think that Donald Trump and LaVar Ball have little in common, because one is the president of the United States and the other is some basketball players’ dad.
But I look at them and see so many similarities:
- Both started companies branded after their own last name.
- Both expect people to pay exorbitant prices for “luxury items” and ask consumers to believe the item is a “luxury” primarily because their name is on the product.
- Both are big on catchphrases and selling items of clothing with those catchphrases on it.
- Both like claiming to be the greatest of all time, even if that claim is outlandish.
- Both have elevated their children into positions they may not be qualified for, sparking potential rules violations.
- Both have been called racist; both have been called misogynist.
- Both have appeared in the WWE ring.
Of course the WWE turned to both—they’re great at attracting attention and saying ridiculous things loudly. This would be a really funny feud, if one of these men wasn’t in charge of the American government and a nuclear arsenal that could end all human life within a few hours.