LaVar Ball trumps Trump at his own game

Ball plays Trump like a fiddle.

LaVar Ball (CREDIT: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
LaVar Ball (CREDIT: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

This Thanksgiving, LaVar Ball is thankful for Donald Trump.

Ball, the father of three basketball prodigies, is in the business of stoking controversy to generate interest in his company, Big Baller Brand. The elder Ball, for example, once claimed he could have beaten Michael Jordan in a game of one-one-one, said he son Lonzo was better than two-time league MVP Steph Curry, and demanded a $1 billion shoe contract.

But nothing Ball has ever said has done more to raise his profile than Donald Trump.

After Ball’s son LiAngelo was arrested with two other players for shoplifting while visiting China with the UCLA basketball team, Trump reportedly asked Chinese President Xi to release them. A few days later, they were released and returned home. Trump demanded the Ball family thank him for his efforts. While LiAngelo complied, LaVar Ball has steadfastly refused to acknowledge Trump’s role.

Trump has responded by repeatedly attacking Ball on Twitter.

This kind of attention, of course, is exactly what fuels Ball in his efforts to market his sons and his brand. He seized on the opportunity this week by appearing on CNN to discuss his feud with the President of the United States.

Ball used his CNN interview to promote his catch phrase — which is, naturally, available on merchandise “by popular demand.” This t-shirt, for example, can be yours for just $60.

Big Baller Brand
Big Baller Brand

Trump, of course, is getting something out this feud as well. He has repeatedly picked fights with black people in the sports world as a way of rallying his core supporters, who are overwhelmingly white. His attacks on Ball as an “ungrateful fool” are particularly racially charged. Before Ball, Trump also went after Jemele Hill, Steph Curry, and Colin Kaepernick.

Trump is the most powerful and successful Twitter troll in the world. But he may have finally met his match. As Complex Magazine noted in May:

If people are going to do free promo for his company, Ball has all the incentive in the world to continue claiming his kids are the best basketball players in the history of the universe, and to pull publicity stunts like this to get free promo for his new company. Whether people are actually buying his tacky, overpriced gear isn’t really the point, because he’s already three or four rungs higher on the ladder than most people would be with their new brand.

Trump believes he is putting Ball in his place. But he’s actually giving him exactly what he wants.