Donald Trump's retort guarantees LaVar Ball exactly what he wants: More attention

LaVar Ball succeeded in goading Donald Trump into a war of words. (Getty Images)
LaVar Ball succeeded in goading Donald Trump into a war of words. (Getty Images)

About 36 hours after he tried to goad Donald Trump into a fight by belittling his role in getting the UCLA three safely home from China, LaVar Ball got exactly what he wanted.

The President guaranteed Ball a few more days in the media limelight by responding with a jab of his own.

Trump’s petty, grammatically dubious tweet was a fitting retort to the ungrateful comments Ball made to ESPN at Friday night’s Lakers game. Asked about Trump’s role in persuading Chinese authorities to release his son, LiAngelo, and the two other UCLA players caught shoplifting earlier this month, LaVar acted as though the President hadn’t gone out of his way to help.

”Who? What was he over there for?” LaVar told ESPN. “Don’t tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out.”

LiAngelo Ball and fellow UCLA freshmen Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were detained eight days in China after police arrested them for shoplifting at three high-end stores in Hangzhou on Nov. 7. Trump intervened on their behalf during a previously planned two-day visit to Beijing, personally lobbying Chinese President Xi Jinping to look into resolving the case.

The morning after Ball, Riley and Hill arrived back in Los Angeles, Trump took credit on Twitter and posed the question, “Do you think the three UCLA basketball players will say thank you President Trump?” Each UCLA player did indeed express gratitude to Trump during their only public comments on Wednesday afternoon, but LaVar chose to do the opposite in a blatant attempt to draw attention to himself and increase awareness of his fledgling shoe-apparel company, the Big Baller Brand.

Most world leaders would surely have ignored LaVar’s graceless barbs or resisted the temptation to respond to basketball’s biggest loudmouth dad. Trump, of course, played right into LaVar’s hands by doing exactly the opposite. For better or worse, Trump is never one to let an insult roll off his back.

The result is the most 2017 feud imaginable, one nobody wanted but perhaps everybody deserved. It pits two polarizing figures and shameless attention seekers who have risen in stature and prominence in similar ways over the past couple years.

Some of LaVar’s marketing strategy seems like a pick and roll out of the Trump playbook. He floods the airwaves with outrageous comments sure to generate strong opinions in order to guarantee that he remains at the forefront of the news cycle.

One of LaVar’s most effective tactics has been to increase his own stature by trying to pick a ridiculous fight with someone more famous. He did it by insisting that the Warriors would be better off with his son, Lonzo, at point guard than Stephen Curry. He did it by saying he’d have beaten Michael Jordan one-on-one in his heyday. And he did it by saying his three sons were better set up for basketball success than LeBron James’ because the four-time NBA MVP’s pedigree will tougher to live up to.

In each instance, LaVar’s ability to use the media’s thirst for controversy worked to his advantage. Reporters went straight to Curry, Jordan and James for a response and their willingness to engage unknowingly helped elevate LaVar’s place in the sport.

Now it’s Trump who LaVar has trolled into a war of words, a move that’s sure to bring him even more attention and publicity in the coming days.

Trump may have landed a blow with his tweet Sunday morning, but LaVar is winning this fight.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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