Donald Trump’s collision with LaVar Ball was inevitable. Ever since Trump became the 45th president of the United States, and Ball became known as the hype man for the Ball family—the male Kris Jenner, if I may—Trump and Ball were bound to collide in some fashion. Somehow, someway, it was happening.
It was all too perfect: Trump was on his trip to China. LaVar also happened to be in China, while his kid, LiAngelo—the least talented baller in the Ball family—and two other freshman UCLA basketball players were arrested for allegedly shoplifting designer sunglasses from a Chinese store.
And finally, in an all-too-perfect way, the universe gave us the inevitable: Trump intervening in the case, asking for the three players to be released from Chinese jail. After the freshmen were released, Father Ball refused to thank the POTUS for what may or may not have been a helping hand in his kid’s release from foreign prison.
And that should have been it. End of story, right? With Ball and Trump, however, it’s never game over.
While Trump was playing checkers—making a PR play on Twitter—LaVar was playing chess, spinning the already massive worldwide story in his favor. As the Joker said in The Dark Knight, “It’s all part of the plan.” Ball, who we’ve called the Trump of Sports Dads, will do and say whatever he can to keep his brand—the Big Baller Brand—relevant. And he has.
Ball has been able to parlay this incident into an appearance on CNN that, of course, went viral. And according to ESPN’s Darren Rovell, this controversy has been worth $9 million in advertising to the Big Baller Brand. And here we are, a week later, still talking about the international incident in what is a traditionally hyperactive 24-hour news cycle.
Yes: Trump continues to intervene in sports topics that are extremely divisive and enliven his dwindling base of followers. And yes: The Ball controversy played into many toxic, hateful narratives from Trump—how people of color are criminals, how they aren’t grateful.
While Trump was making a divisive play toward race, Ball was having none of it. He immediately spun the controversy in his favor, as he has with many of the controversies that have come his way. Maybe Trump can learn a thing or two from the Trump of Sports Dads.