Of all the college basketball headlines lately, this is one of the strangest: LiAngelo Ball, shoplifting, and China. There’s a headline that almost seems like something out of Mad Libs.
Like you’re filling in the blanks and you just need someone to name a famous teenager, a small crime, and a foreign country. But it’s real. The UCLA basketball team is in China and Ball, along with two teammates Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, were released on bail this morning after being questioned about allegedly stealing sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store next to the team hotel.
The rest of the UCLA team has moved on to Shanghai for a game against Georgia Tech on Friday, but Ball and his two teammates reportedly have to remain in Hangzhou until the legal process has ended. According to ESPN’s Arash Markazi, that process “could take days, weeks or even months.”
Look, I don’t know what did or didn’t happen. And even if Ball or his teammates grabbed some shades, it’s not the end of the world. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not good. It’s bad and it’s not something anyone should be doing, especially in a foreign country. If they did it, it’s embarrassing, it’s dumb, it’s stupid, it’s reckless, it’s all of that and more.
And so, yeah, the prospect of three UCLA basketball players, one of whom is a Ball, effectively under house arrest in China for months is pretty crazy, but a big part of me feels like that’s unlikely. Then you go from petty crime to international incident. And is there really going to be an international incident over three basketball players and some sunglasses? I’d be very surprised. Then again, when you look at how the offseason has gone for college basketball, anything is possible.
But at the same time, I’m not going to be wringing my hands about the youth of today or blaming the Ball family for this. If he did shoplift some sunglasses, he’s not the first college student to do it, nor is he the last.
So, no, I’m not going to be using this as a chance to take shots at his father and try to claim that this is all Pops fault. That if the old man wasn’t yammering on about how good he was in college or about how awesome his sons are that LiAngelo wouldn’t have been arrested for alleged shoplifting. It’s easy, low-hanging fruit.
I could come in with that and then open the phones and the show would be taken care of for me. I could just put my feet up and let people scream until they’re hoarse about the Ball family. But I’m not going to use something the son may or may not have done to crack on the father, just because you don’t like the father. Not only is that weak, it just doesn’t make any sense at all.
Just as it doesn’t make any sense at all to turn this into a referendum on one of the most boring topics around: paying college athletes. I’m not going to try to convince anyone that if Ball was compensated for what he does at UCLA as a basketball player, that he would’ve bought LV sunglasses instead of pocketed them, allegedly. Because we don’t know that and there’s no way to prove it.
Maybe if he got some money from UCLA, he would be throwing down cash or a credit card for sunglasses. And maybe not. Because from the looks of it, the Ball family seems to be doing okay financially. The kid is tricking around in a Ferrari on their reality show. I don’t think he’s hurting for dough. This isn’t an indictment of a broken system, or another example of why college athletes should be paid. This is an example of young guy or young guys doing something really dumb. If, in fact, they did it at all.
So, if you’re looking for me to turn this into some sort of Hot Take Factory, you’re going to be disappointed. Because that’s not what’s going to happen here. Other shows or hosts may not have anything better to do, but I do. I’m not saying I’m not interested in your opinion or takes about it, I’m saying don’t look for me to be grabbing at the low hanging fruit. Never have. Never will.
And whatever you don’t come in here and try to spin this sunglass story into another stupid Oadge slash, Ron, slash Nicole got slashed because of some sunglasses take. I’m not having that either.