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LaVar Ball spoke out on TODAY Tuesday about why he decided to withdraw son LiAngelo Ball from the UCLA basketball team and what the future holds after LiAngelo was suspended indefinitely for a shoplifting incident in China.
The famously outspoken sports dad and his middle son spoke with Natalie Morales from their home in Chino Hills, California, about the fallout from the arrest in China and the decision to pull LiAngelo before he even played a single game for UCLA as a freshman this season.
"China already said, 'OK, he made a bad mistake, we're gonna drop the charges. That's the punishment they gave him, now we over here. And we gotta serve some more punishment?" LaVar said.
"He already fessed up for what he did. He apologized. What is the long process for? We only went to UCLA - one and done - to play basketball."
The Balls claimed UCLA was going to suspend LiAngelo for two to three months.
"That's the whole season pretty much,'' LiAngelo said. "That's just a long time of doing nothing - I'd rather be playing."
LiAngelo will not be transferring to another college and will instead begin preparing himself to make an NBA roster despite being a longshot to be drafted. LaVar's oldest son, Lonzo, is a rookie point guard with the Los Angeles Lakers, and his youngest son, LaMelo, is a high school phenom whom LaVar also had removed from his school as a junior this year.
"I am going to get Gelo in shape,'' LaVar said. "I'm gonna work him out. We gonna do some other things, and he's gonna be headed to the NBA."
LiAngelo's departure from UCLA comes after he was caught shoplifting last month with UCLA teammates Cody Riley and Jalen Hill during a team trip to Huangzhou.
"We all went out one night, went through the malls, went to the Louis Vuitton store, and people started taking stuff and me just not thinking and being with them, I took something, too,'' LiAngelo told Morales.
"We left thinking we'd just get away. You know how kids think. I didn't realize until I got back to my hotel, I'm like 'That was stupid.' But by then it was too late and then sure enough, the next morning, the police came and got us."
The three spent a day and a half in jail until the charges were eventually dropped after President Trump spoke about the incident with President Xi Jinping of China. LiAngelo thanked Trump for his help at a press conference, but LaVar declined to thank the president, resulting in Trump lashing out on Twitter and calling LaVar "an ungrateful fool."
"I don't just be saying thank you because somebody said they did something,'' LaVar told Morales. "And if they did it, genuinely, do you really need to come up to me and say boy you better thank me?"
LaVar tried to ease the tension and get some promotion for his Big Baller brand of sneakers by sending three pairs to Trump. Lonzo, LaMelo and now LiAngelo all have signature shoes with the brand.
"I sent (Trump) three pairs - red, white and blue to show him we patriotic,'' LaVar said.
The plan is not only to have all three boys play in the NBA, but for the same team.
"All these boys are gonna get on the Lakers,'' LaVar said. "Watch how I do this, and people gonna look up and they gonna say "Wow, how'd they all get on the Lakers?"'
"I just want to play period,'' LiAngelo said. "I'm not worried about money. And playing with 'Zo and Melo, playing with my brothers in LA, that's like paying me right there."
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