UCLA’s Cody Riley, Jalen Hill, and LiAngelo Ball were arrested in China on Tuesday for allegedly shoplifting from a Louis Vuitton store. After spending several hours at a police station, they were released and allowed to return to their luxury hotel where they must remain until the legal process concludes, per ESPN.
The trio is facing up to 10 years in prison if convicted. This is very, very, serious.
So while it’s no surprise that LaVar Ball, professional ringmaster and LiAngelo’s father, is adding to the bizarre nature of the situation, it’s still a bit jarring.
Consider the chain of events following the younger Ball’s release. First LaVar was going to have a press conference for media at the hotel. Then it was going to just be in his hotel room. Then it was moved from his hotel room. Then it didn’t happen at all on the advice of legal counsel.
Ball passing up — or even delaying — an opportunity to speak in front of cameras is news. But lest you think there’s been a major sea change, know that he’s still playing the showman. And hype man.
It’s understandable why Ball wants to push the narrative that this is no big deal. The basic facts and potential consequences tell a different story. The Balls’ celebrity isn’t going to go very far in China. Serious legal jeopardy is also not preventing the family from filming their reality show for their scores of fans. The show, after all, must go on.
LiAngelo’s uncertainty also won”t prevent the Big Baller Brand from getting a foothold in the crucial Asian market.
Look, Ball is in a tough spot. No matter how irritating he can be, no one wants to see another father see one of their children in peril. And I am not judging him for the way he’s responding. I’m simply pointing out how his carnival barker act has predictably turned this into a bigger circus than it would have been otherwise.
It will be fascinating to see how the Ball patriarch responds as the situation continues. It’s in his best interest — and his son’s — to play things close to the vest and not say anything bombastic. That will be a challenge, as it’s tough for him to flip that showman switch off.
The cameras are still rolling on the Ball show. Only now it feels as if there’s some real stakes and real drama.