Last week, the Ball family received worldwide attention, but not for the reason anyone would have hoped. While in Shanghai, China for a non-conference game between UCLA and Georgia Tech, LaVar’s middle son LiAngelo Ball, along with two of his teammates, were arrested by Chinese police for shoplifting at a high-end shopping mall. The incident was covered by media all over the world and could have sent the Bruin trio to a Chinese prison for as long as ten years. With the help of the President and the U.S. State Department, the boys were released after a short period of house arrest at a luxury hotel. UCLA officials will soon decide how to punish Ball and his teammates.
LaVar Ball, who lives his life by the credo that any publicity is good publicity, has gone into full radio silence. Braggadocio isn’t as charming when one of your sons just embarrassed an entire nation. It will be interesting to see how the Ball patriarch works his way out of this one. Defenders of LaVar’s past antics, including myself, have almost always pointed to the fact that his kids all seem to be humble, hardworking, and perfect gentlemen. That image will take a long time to rehabilitate.
Committing grand larceny in a communist country is more than poor judgment, but teenagers make mistakes. The absolute worst thing LaVar can do for LiAngelo and his brand is to make light of this situation. If ever there was a situation where tough love was appropriate, this is it. The Big Baller Brand may not be dead yet, but it is definitely hanging over the edge.