The Wall Street Journal: UCLA basketball players headed home after shoplifting detention in China

SHANGHAI — Three UCLA basketball players detained for a week in China flew back home late Tuesday, hours after U.S. President Donald Trump said he had requested assistance on their behalf from his counterpart Xi Jinping.

UCLA freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Jalen Hill and Cody Riley were seen late Tuesday at Shanghai’s Pudong International Airport checking into a Delta DAL, +0.06% flight bound for Los Angeles, airline staff said. The flight took off after 9 p.m. Their departure came after a week of tension, with the players detained by police in the eastern city of Hangzhou as suspects in an investigation of suspected shoplifting from a Louis Vuitton LVMHF, +0.88% boutique.

Ending his trip to Asia on Tuesday, Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One that in recent days he asked the Chinese president for help. Trump called the incident “unfortunate” but said he had had “a great conversation” about the players with China’s leader. “President Xi has been terrific on that subject,” he said.

See: Nine of the 10 most popular athletes on Instagram play the same sport

The shoplifting investigation took on outsize importance because the players are high-profile, especially Ball, who comes from a prominent sports family with a brother in the NBA and a media-hungry father, and news of their troubles broke hours before Xi welcomed Mr. Trump on his first presidential visit to China.

In China, UCLA was the guest of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. BABA, -1.23% as part of a massive marketing campaign, which included a U.S. college basketball game on Saturday that was to be the three players’ freshman debut.

An expanded version of this report appears at WSJ.com.

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