In LaVar Ball, the president of the United States has finally met his match: a master troll with an appetite for attention even bigger than his own
On November 23rd, Thanksgiving Day in the United States, a day set aside on the calendar for gratitude, the man who just 10 months prior had been inaugurated president of the world’s leading superpower rose in the early morning hours before a planned day of golfing and tweeted about LaVar Ball, the self-proclaimed “CEO” of a tiny, family-based basketball apparel company in Chino Hills, California.
It marked back-to-back days that the president began his day as leader of the free world by going after Ball on Twitter before then getting around to serving the American people and golfing. Trump’s feud with Ball began back on Sunday when he tweeted the following about the creator of Big Baller Brand: “Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal,” Trump posted. “I should have left them in jail!”
A US president saying he wished he would have left three Americans in jail on the other side of the world aside, it’s not unreasonable that Trump would feel perturbed that Ball refused to express gratitude for his role in getting Ball’s son LiAngelo home from China after the 19-year old and two UCLA Bruins teammates were caught shoplifting on video. At the same time, it is not unreasonable to ask that the president of the United States not expect a personal “thank you” from everyone he helps in his position or that he not throw a public fit online if he does not receive one.
While Trump’s inability to keep LaVar Ball’s name off his Twitter only created more questions about the president’s mental health and ability to focus on important world issues, it did provide clarity on something else: Donald Trump is no longer the world’s undisputed Troll King. That title now belongs to LaVar Ball.
Trump openly and proudly trolled his way through the Republican primaries and to the presidency, a Breitbart comments section stuffed into a suit and adorned with an extra-long necktie. Along the way he earned billions of free time in the media with outrageous comments while all those who attempted to troll him back fell by the wayside. Remember when Marco Rubio went after the size of Trump’s hands during the primaries? He soon apologized (and his campaign soon ended). Hillary Clinton’s traditional campaign approach of talking about the issues failed to beat Trump in the states that mattered either, as he trolled his way to victories in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. And so he became president and the Troll King.
The king is dead.
LaVar Ball was not a name anyone in the United States knew during the summer of 2016 at the height of the presidential campaign. He only rose to prominence last fall at the start of the college basketball season, and then only by fairly diehard sports fans. His oldest son, Lonzo, was a freshman point guard for UCLA. A good college player, but not one that would have become a household name so soon on his abilities alone. That came about because of LaVar, who told every microphone and camera he could get to how amazing his Lonzo – and his two younger sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo – were. LaVar said that Lonzo was already better than Steph Curry is. He declared that he was a better player than LeBron James. And he proclaimed that he could have beaten Michael Jordan in his prime. (Point of order: LaVar Ball averaged 2.2 points per game in his one season at Washington State in 1988, the very same season in which Michael Jordan led the NBA in scoring at 35.0 points per game.)
Ball’s pronouncements – each individual one absurd on its face – bought space and airtime all over the sports media with him becoming a fixture on shows like ESPN’s First Take and whatever FS1 still puts on television. He even made an appearance in a pro wrestling ring, just as Trump once did himself. At the very same time, Ball was rolling out his Big Baller Brand line of shoes and apparel, a brand he claimed would one day rival the likes of Nike, adidas and Under Armour, a claim almost as ridiculous as saying Mexico would pay for a border wall. But the sports media ate it up and Big Baller Brand debuted its first shoe last May, the ZO2, at a price point of … drumroll … $495. That’s so expensive it could almost pay for a course at the fake Trump University. There’s no way to know for sure how will Ball’s brand is doing, but he did purchase himself a Rolls Royce over the summer and got luxury cars for each of his sons, as well.
But even the best trolls eventually need some substance behind their claims to keep it all from collapsing. And two and a half weeks ago, the Big Baller Brand had hit a dry patch. LiAngelo, only a three-star recruit to UCLA, was arrested in China. Lonzo was shooting a decidedly non-Curry-esque 31% from the floor with the Los Angeles Lakers. And one of the last things we heard of LaMelo was him going 9-for-32 in a high school playoff game. Oh, and there was also a Ball in the Family reality show on Facebook. The brand was trending towards medium baller status. And then the president gave LaVar Ball the chance to introduce himself to the entire world. Thanks to all of the free publicity Ball has received since Trump put LaVar’s name in his presidential mouth – including Ball’s bizarre, 22-minute interview on CNN in prime time earlier this week – the Big Baller CEO has earned more than $13 million in ad value, this according to Apex MG Analytics.
All other challengers to Trump over the past two years have receded or been defeated under his attack. But Ball only cares about getting attention and will continue courting more. Trump hasn’t faced an opponent like this before and has walked right into the waiting maw of a troll with an even bigger mouth than his. If the planet is ever attacked by aliens, LaVar Ball won’t pledge fealty. He’ll stand up and declare that Lonzo could beat the aliens with one hand.
The question now is what happens next. Will Trump continue giving Ball the free attention he wants? Will the Big Baller Brand grow in global prominence? Will LaVar Ball become the face of the resistance and be elected president in 2020? That one sounds absolutely ridiculous. So based off of the last 18 months in American history, get ready for a President Ball.
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