Way back when, like when I was a kid, and even for many years thereafter, young athletes went to college on scholarships that were considered invaluable, providing first and foremost a solid education for kids who otherwise could never have afforded any such thing, and secondly, an organization to play their sport against solid competition. For some, widely known and understood to be an infinitely small percentage of them, that could lead to a future as a professional athlete. For most, it provided an education.
But society changed, and professional salaries went through the roof, no longer measured in thousands, but in millions, and every kid with a modicum of athletic ability envisioned himself a pro athlete, raking in those millions from the NBA, and MLB, and the NFL. More and more kids tried to go from hight school to the NBA, and even more accepted valuable athletic scholarships, never intending to stay in school for more than a single year, or at most two.
|Some of these high school kids and short timers, the one-and-outs, have become stars and multi-millionaires – about 3% of those who tried. So what we have are freshmen like Joel|
Embiid and Andrew Wiggins and others who excelled in their one season and who now think they know all there is to know about basketball and all there is to know about life, and who are leaving school to become the next LeBron James. These fellows were college stars and do have more than a 3% change of making it. But there are also guys like Zack LaVine, who, like Corey Maggette and others who were never even starters on their college teams and whose total minutes amounted to a dozen or so full games, think they can walk off a college bench and into NBA stardom, and millions of dollars, year after year after year.
But why bring this us up now? It is no because there is fallout across the NBA and society from taking 19, 20 year old kids and giving them promises of glory and buckets of money, but it is more about what I saw awhile ago when I logged on to a sports news website and read that not one, but two NBA players had been arrested in the past day or so. Remembering a few more in the recent past, I did some searching and found some unsettling facts that I feel are part of what I just wrote, that giving these immature kids with delusions of grandeur millions of dollars and celebrity status has some pretty serious downsides, even for those who even if they do not become stars, still hang around the NBA a few seasons, raking in the bucks. This is some of what I found:
Following a court appearance Monday, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Dante Cunningham was released on a $150,000 bond, having been charged with domestic
he has been a professional basketball player since he was 16, bypassing not just college, but most of hight school. He is 21 years old, in his second NBA season, and is being paid $3.5 M per year.
During the first week of March, New York Knicks’ point guard Raymond Felton was arrested for possessing an unlicensed handgun with which he threatened his estranged wife. Felton left North Carolina early for the NBA and as the Knicks regular at the point, makes $10 M.
Last September Jared Sullinger, then with the Boston Celtics, was arrested on a litany of charges, including assault and battery on his girlfriend and intimidation of a witness. The intimidation must have worked, as the girlfriend refused to testify and charges were ultimately dismissed. Sullinger left OSU after his Sophomore season for an NBA contract that pays him almost $1.5 M at the age of 22.
DeAndre Liggins left Kentucky after his junior year for big NBA money. Four days before Sullinger’s event, Liggins was arrested for similar activities – domestic assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, but also all in the presence of a minor. He is now out of the NBA and apparently charges are still pending.
In August, 2013, Denver Nuggets guard Ty Lawson was arrested on numerous misdemeanor charges of domestic violence-related harassment and property damage. Turns out, that was his third arrest. Earlier in 2013 he was arrested for flight to avoid prosecution stemming from a traffic case, and back in 2008 he had been arrested for a DUI while he was an underage college student. He left school early for an NBA contract
Michael Beasley left Kansas State after his freshman season for NBA money, and since beginning his pro career in late 2009, he has been arrested numerous times, including apparently three separate arrests in 2013. One of those arrests that did NOT involve drugs for was driving 71 MPH in a 45 zone, without a license, but with a gun. His arrests generally have involved drugs, and he has both spent time in rehab centers and has twice violated the NBA drug policy, whatever that might be.
Houston Rockets forward Terrence Jones was arrested in July, 2013, for stomping on the leg of a homeless man sleeping on a Portland street. Jones left Kentucky after his sophomore year, and at the age of 21 is pulling down a cool $1.5 M.
All this, occurred just in the past year, and most of these incidents involve extremely immature players who left school very early in exchange for being paid obscene amounts of money for throwing around a basketball. In a couple of months, another group of egotistical, immature young fellas will be quitting school for a future that will for most, be far different that they now envision.