On one side is a divisive, hot-tempered patriarch with three prominent children; he’s gotten where he is in large part thanks to winning a genetic lottery. A consummate salesman, verging toward snake-oil levels, he sells products at a markup thanks to the name they bear. After years of ups and downs, the last 18 months have seen him finally reach the pinnacle of success, along with a generous dollop of hatred.
On the other is LaVar Ball.
From the moment that LiAngelo Ball—UCLA basketball player, son of LaVar, and brother of NBA rookie Lonzo—was arrested in China for shoplifting from a Louis Vuitton store in Hangzhou, a collision between LaVar Ball and Donald Trump, two of the most outrageous, larger-than-life, and controversial figures in the contemporary United States, neither of whom can ever just let anything go, seemed inevitable. Now it’s erupting just in time for Thanksgiving break, ensuring that neither sports nor politics is safe family-conversation material, and again showing how Trump conflates himself and the American state.
With Trump visiting China at the same time, he procured the release of the three UCLA basketball players who had been detained for shoplifting, including Ball. He then promptly demanded a public display of gratitude:
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
They did thank the president. Then he called for more thanks:
To the three UCLA basketball players I say: You're welcome, go out and give a big Thank You to President Xi Jinping of China who made.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2017
That was enough for LaVar Ball.