LaVar Ball Attempts to Explain in Trainwreck Interview Why He Didn’t Thank Trump

Father of UCLA basketball player arrested in China continues to question Trump's role in bringing players home

• November 21, 2017 2:57 pm


The father of LiAngelo Ball, one of the UCLA basketball players accused of shoplifting in China, appeared in a "interesting" and lengthy interview on Monday night where he attempted to explain why he did not thank President Donald Trump for helping his son avoid jail time in China.

Trump said he talked to Chinese President Xi during his trip to Asia to help LiAngelo, along with fellow UCLA freshman basketball players Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, after the trio was arrested Nov. 8 for shoplifting designer sunglasses.

LaVar Ball joined CNN’s Chris Cuomo to talk about his comments towards the president, and why he felt Trump did not deserve to be thanked for talking to Xi and ensuring the UCLA players returned home from China.

Here are some of the most memorable moments from the over-22-minute interview.

  1. About one minute into the interview, Ball seemed to be confused as to what Trump was doing in China in the first place.

Cuomo started the interview by outlining what had happened and how the president was already in China to talk about trade with Xi, and then went out of his way to ask for the Chinese president to pardon the three U.S. basketball players.

"The president finds out about it. He, of course, is in China, he’s meeting with President Xi," Cuomo laid out. "He gets involved, the boys get released, they get to come back home, which was never a certainty until he got involved."

Cuomo was then interrupted by Ball who asked, "How do you know he wasn’t involved before I even knew that?"

"I mean, he didn’t even know they was [sic] over there and like that," Ball continue. "Okay, what was the reason for him going over there in the first place?"

Cuomo went on to explain that Trump was in China as part of his 12-day trip to Asia to discuss diplomatic issues, including trade.

  1.  Ball also insinuated that the only reason he was on the show and discussing his son was because of the family's notoriety.  

"What we’re talking about right now is a lot of stuff about my son just because his last name is Ball. We aren’t even talking about the other two kids," Ball said.

LaVar is a former NCAA basketball and football player, played in the NFL, and has been an outspoken media personality in recent years. LiAngelo's brothers are also noted as being talented basketball players, with the elder currently playing for the Los Angeles Lakers.

"We’re talking about your son–," Cuomo said before being cut off.

"I’m talking about my son, too," Ball cut in.

"Right. But we’re talking about your son because of you and what you said," Cuomo responded while Ball continued to talk over him. "This isn’t picking on your son, it’s because of how you inserted yourself into this and seemed to disrespect the president’s efforts."

"When somebody asks me a questions, that’s not disrespectful if I don’t feel nobody did anything," Ball said, suggesting the president didn’t actually do anything to get his son out of trouble in China. "I don’t have to go around saying thank you to everybody."

  1. Ball went after Cuomo, saying the CNN host was reading what he said in a way that made it sound worse than he intended.

"He wanted some thanks, and instead you said, ‘Who? What was he [Trump] over there for? Don’t tell me nothing. Everybody wants to make it seem like he helped me out,’" Cuomo said, reading Ball’s comments.

"I mean you’re trying to make it sound like that, I’m just saying, I didn’t meet with him face-to-face. I know exactly what I said, but you [sic] buffing it up like, ‘You said that you don’t wanna say thank you to nobody,’"  Ball said in an attempt to imitate Cuomo reading Ball’s previous comments. "No, come meet me like a man, shake my hand, and tell me what you did for me."

"I was trying to be much more even than that," Cuomo said, letting Ball know he was not trying to insult him. "I’m not trying to add tone. I’m trying to say it with an even tone."

"I know you’re trying to add tone to it because that’s what you do. You can’t say it with an even tone," Ball said, grinning.

  1. Ball said the players only deserved a slap on the wrist for shoplifting, and did not appear to accept the seriousness of the crime.

"I'm saying that it wasn't a big deal because being raised in South Central L.A., I've seen harsher things. I've seen 16 to 17-year-old kids have to go to jail for life … doing stuff that's harming people," Ball said. "The way I looked at it was, okay he shoplifted–he wasn't physical, we returned it, he fessed up to it, nobody got hurt … it was an impulse thing, a bad decision at a bad time. That's all it was."

"There’s no question that there are much worse crimes than shoplifting, but shoplifting does matter, and in China you go to jail for it," Cuomo said. "In fact, you can go to jail here for it."

"Exactly, they try to make it a big deal like, ‘Oh, if you shoplift in China, boy that’s big time, you going to jail.’" Ball said. "You can go to jail anywhere you take anything, so that point shouldn’t even be said."

  1. The father of the UCLA player went on to insinuate, but not straight out say, he had something to do with getting the boys out of trouble.

"He [Trump] tweeted, ‘cause he’s mad at me, I should have left their asses in jail.’" Ball said. "First of all, they wasn’t [sic] in jail, they was [sic] in a hotel. Now how’d they get to the hotel on bail? Somebody had to do something."

"Did you make that happen?" Cuomo asked.

"Somebody had to do something," Ball repeated.

"Did you do it?" Cuomo asked again.

"I’m just telling you, somebody had to do it. Did he do it?" Ball asked, referring to Trump.

"I’m just asking you, did you do it," Cuomo kept on the question.

"I’m just asking you, did he [Trump] do it?" Ball came back.

  1. Ball continued to question whether the president had anything to do with the players' return home. 

"Do you think that he [Trump] would be lying about helping?" Cuomo asked Ball.

"I didn’t see him talk. I don’t care, and I don’t know," Ball said.

"So the President of the United States says he helped, and you say if you didn’t see it, you didn’t hear it, you don’t believe it?" Cuomo clarified.

"Hey, if he said he helped, that’s good for his mind," Ball said.

"What do you mean, good for his mind?" Cuomo asked. 

"If you helped, you shouldn’t have to say anything," Ball said, telling Cuomo that when he does something nice for someone he doesn’t walk around asking for "love."

  1. Cuomo and Ball went back and forth about the proper protocol for expressing gratitude.

"Are you going to say thank you to me?" Ball asked, seemingly out of the blue.

"At the end of this interview I will thank you, I guarantee you," Cuomo said.

"Are you going to say thank you now? Are you going to thank me now?" Ball pushed.

"Not yet,  You haven’t earned it yet," Cuomo said, smiling.

"Why you not going to thank me right now?" Ball continued.

The exchange over "thank yous" between the two men continued for over another minute.

  1. Ball said his son deserved a "pass" for shoplifting because he has never done anything bad in the past, and he avoided jail time because Ball raised his son to be "a respectful young man."

"What did he [Trump] do for me?" Ball asked, questioning yet again why he was expected to thank the president.

"He helped get your son out of China, where he could have been in jail for a long time," Cuomo said, obviously getting a little frustrated after 17 minutes of back-and-forth banter.

"Why was he going to be in jail for a long time?" Ball challenged.

"Because he stole something, according to the Chinese authorities" Cuomo said.

"You know what, he’s okay," Ball responded. "He has so much character in 18 years that he’s allowed to have a pass for that … You know where my boy’s at right now? [It's] because of me. I spent all that time and love for him. Don’t come in one time and think you’ve done something for my son."

Cuomo commented that the "one time" Trump got involved with Ball's son was a big deal.

  1. "I helped my son get out of China," Ball said, ultimately taking some credit for helping his son avoid jail time.

"You think you helped more than the President of the United States?" Cuomo asked.

"I had some people that had boots on the ground that knew the situation when we first jumped on that," Ball said, adding that he certainly thanked enough people face-to-face.

Cuomo asked if he would then thank the president if he invited Ball to the White House.

"Heck yeah, if he invited me to the White House, I would thank him for inviting me to the White House. I’d say, ‘Thank you for getting me to your house,’" Ball said, clearly missing the point.  

The remainder of the over two minutes of interview devolved as Cuomo broke down laughing several times and Ball claimed the CNN host needed more people like him on the show to make him laugh.

"Did you thank the doctor for bringing you into this world?" Ball asked. You better go back and find him, because you lucky."

"You need someone like me to loosen you up a little bit, ‘cause you wound tight," Ball said.

"I am, the president calls me the chained lunatic," Cuomo said.

The two wrapped up the interview with Ball remarking how much fun he thought Cuomo was having.

"This is fun for you, I can tell," Ball remarked.

"It's interesting, I'll give you that," Cuomo said.