Police investigating after basketball player sucker-punched during pickup game at Crystal City gym

- A professional basketball player said he was sucker-punched during a pickup basketball game and hurt so badly that he had to get his jaw wired shut.

Josiah Pope plays for the Junior Basketball Association, a league founded by LaVar Ball. He just returned from traveling this summer with his team.

On Friday, the D.C. native was playing at LA Fitness in Crystal City. Pope said a man he was playing against was being especially aggressive.

“I said, ‘Look, I’m not really the guy for you to be picking a fight with. I’m not here to fight, I’m not here to argue, I’m just here to play ball,’” Pope said.

He said the man got in his face and he told him to back off.

“I wasn’t thinking that something physical would happen,” he said. “As soon as I went back to defend him and I got in a defensive stance, I was sucker-punched, uppercut and hit twice in the jaw.”

Pope ended up with four fractures to his face.

Arlington County police are investigating the incident as an assault and battery. They said the suspect took off and they are still working to identify him.

Pope said he wanted to play on another team this fall, but with a broken jaw and all of the pain medication, his court time will be limited. He has been playing basketball since he was a child and said he has never had anything happen like this before.

“I don’t think anyone at a gym deserves to be assaulted, regardless of the case,” he said. “It’s a community place.”

Last month at a LA Fitness in Sterling, law enforcement was called to the basketball court after a man claimed he was assaulted during a pickup game. When a sheriff’s deputy arrived to investigate, he found the player had just been fouled and there was no assault. The incident went viral after witnesses mocked what happened on social media.

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