Shortly after LiAngelo Ball and two of his UCLA teammates were arrested in China earlier this week on shoplifting charges after they allegedly tried to steal sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store near a hotel in Hangzhou, there were a lot of people back in the U.S. who expressed their concern for them. While shoplifting is a relatively minor offense in America, the criminal justice system works much differently in China. So LiAngelo, Cody Riley, and Jalen Hill—who were in China this week to take part in a game against Georgia Tech—could end up facing up to 10 years in a Chinese prison for what they allegedly did.
But despite the seriousness of the situation, LiAngelo’s dad LaVar didn’t seem all that concerned about it when it first happened. ESPN’s Arash Markazi has been all over the LiAngelo story this week, and early Wednesday, he caught up with LaVar to get his take on his son’s arrest. LaVar downplayed it and said that he didn’t think it was as big of a deal as people were making it out to be.
"He’ll be fine," LaVar said. "Everyone’s making it a big deal. It ain’t that big a deal."
It is a big deal, though, and it sounds like LaVar may have finally figured that out. Markazi has continued to follow the LiAngelo story over the course of the last 24 hours, and in that time, it seems someone has gotten to LaVar and told him that he needs to stop talking about the situation with his son, especially if he’s going to attempt to minimize the scope of it.
Markazi caught up with LaVar again on Thursday as he exited UCLA’s team hotel in Shanghai with his youngest son LaMelo. And this time, the usually outspoken LaVar didn’t have anything to say to Markazi or the other reporters who gathered in the hotel lobby to ask him questions.
Markazi also reported that, part of the reason LaVar might be keeping quiet, is that his original "it ain’t that big a deal" comments with regards to LiAngelo’s arrest didn’t go over well with some people in China. As a result, LaVar has apparently been told not to talk about LiAngelo’s arrest anymore until his son returns home to the U.S.
As of right now, it’s unclear when or, frankly, even if LiAngelo and his teammates will be making their way home. They were released on bail on Wednesday, but they are being forced to stay at the hotel UCLA was staying at back in Hangzhou until the legal process plays out, which could take awhile.
Meanwhile, LaVar and LaMelo are scheduled to take part in a Big Baller Brand pop-up shop opening in Shanghai on Friday before UCLA plays GT—minus LiAngelo, Riley, and Hill—on Saturday.
While all of this has been going on, LaVar's oldest son Lonzo has been monitoring the situation from afar. The Lakers were in Boston on Wednesday to play the Celtics. And while he has kept a close eye on LiAngelo’s arrest, he said that he hasn’t spoken to his dad or brothers this week. He also said that he’s been keeping focused on playing for the Lakers and trying not to worry too much about what’s taking place in China.
"I mean, it’s still my little brother," he said following the Lakers’ 107-96 loss to Boston. "But I got to come out there and play."
Stay tuned for the latest developments in LiAngelo’s case.