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LaVar Ball’s basketball league is a bad idea

For all but a handful of future pros, college is smarter than short money

5:47 PMLaVar Ball’s proposed pro basketball league for high school graduates is like those shoes that are supposed to increase your vertical: Looks good, but a bad idea for almost everyone. Instead, let’s fix college basketball so it provides a real education for athletes. That would be worth much more, long term, than what Ball is offering to pay these kids.

Sure, I understand why the idea is attractive on the surface. Just ask all those geniuses on Twitter: College ballplayers already get fake educations, so dispense with the sham off the rip. One-and-done players such as Ben Simmons or Derrick Rose are only there for a few months, so give them a paying alternative. The NCAA and colleges are making billions off these kids, so why not fight the power, support a black-owned business and let players get that paper?

This is short-term thinking. It relies on the misplaced belief that Ball’s proposed salary of $3,000 to $10,000 per month would do more good for a player than a real college education. And it succumbs to the problems of NCAA sports rather than confronting them.

Here’s my biggest problem, though, as a black man who loves basketball and my people: Ball’s proposal would have an especially negative effect on the black community — which already places a disproportionate emphasis on sports over education.

To truly gauge the impact of this proposal, let’s remove the one-and-dones from the equation. Those dozen players will be fine. They’ve basically been pros since middle school anyway, getting free everything (and often cold cash) from AAU coaches. Although I do think they would benefit from the opportunity to mature, study, grow and learn in college, I can’t argue with their decisions to get those NBA millions.

But a league for high school graduates would discourage education for thousands of other kids. There are more than 500,000 boys playing high school basketball right now. About 499,999 of them want to play Division I hoops. Only 1 percent of them will make it. Only 4 percent will play college ball on any level. Despite these long odds, and despite the fact that there are more college opportunities for kids with high grades than high verticals, thousands of families pour most of their time, focus and energy into basketball, chasing a scholarship that will never come. Especially black families. If a semipro league for high school graduates is an option, even more kids will place even less emphasis on education.

Let’s say a kid does secure one of the 80 roster spots in Ball’s league. A few will reach the NBA — but they would have made it there anyway under the current system. Anybody with NBA potential can grab a college scholarship somewhere, grades or nah. For those who play for Ball and don’t make the league, then what? Will they have saved the $100,000 to $300,000 to pay for the college education they could have gotten for free? Let’s say they played overseas — and that bag ain’t all it’s cracked up to be — will these grown men want to attend classes with kids? Not likely. Which makes a postbasketball career, and the skills needed for that career to flourish, harder to obtain.

Most importantly, though, I’m troubled by my community’s disproportionate focus on sports over education. It’s borderline unhealthy and long-term foolish. Walk through any ’hood and ask 10 kids what they plan to be when they grow up. About eight will say an NBA or NFL player. I’ve seen dads working out 10-year-olds at 10 on school nights. A Philly high school principal friend of mine recently asked one of his students what he planned to do for college. Play football, the kid said. Problem was, he wasn’t on his high school team. The reasons for these unrealistic hopes should be obvious.

The saving grace of our obsession is that it points us toward college. That’s problematic in itself because big-money NCAA sports are broken, and too many athletes don’t get real educations. I’ve long argued that we should improve education for athletes, instead of thinking money, like Ball’s chump change, is the solution.

Nobody loves basketball more than me. (I can use bad grammar on purpose because I have my college degree.) I understand the allure of giving the finger to an exploitative NCAA system and rocking with the brash brother from Compton, California. But don’t let the flash and cash fool you. For all but a handful of sure-shot stars, the long-term benefits of college basketball are far greater than LaVar Ball’s short money.

Daily Dose: 12/18/17

Diddy wants to buy the ‘North’ Carolina Panthers

6:33 PMWell, what a day. Our president, John Skipper, stepped down, noting his own substance abuse issues as the reason. The Undefeated does not exist without Skipper, which is a plain fact. Going to miss that guy.

Tavis Smiley is fighting back. The longtime PBS host, who has built a career being one of the most prominent black faces in media, was suspended for allegations of sexual misconduct, which we’ve obviously seen a lot of in recent months. Now he’s attempting to defend himself in the public eye, but it appears he doesn’t fundamentally understand the nature of the problem. To claim that you have cards and letters that prove your relationships over the years were consensual, well, that’s not really the point here.

Prayers go out to Seattle. Earlier today, an Amtrak train derailed, killing multiple people. Perhaps as important, though, the optics of a train dangling off a bridge in a relatively big city in America, with seemingly no relief in sight, is really disheartening. How we feel about American infrastructure efforts is very much regulated by what we can see, and this is not good. The stories of what happened to the people actually on the train are extremely harrowing and worth a read.

George Zimmerman is back on his bull#!@. Now that Jay-Z is making a docuseries about the night that Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, an incident that sparked a revival in the attention on the deaths of unarmed black people, particularly at the hands of people in positions of authority. Reminder: Zimmerman was a self-appointed neighborhood watch person. Not some officially appointed guy. Now he’s throwing shade at Jay, like he wants to get in a confrontation with him too. Yeah, that’s gross.

The situation with the Carolina Panthers is bad news. Owner Jerry Richardson has been accused of a whole lot of really foul things, including openly telling women to turn around so he could look at their behinds and allegedly requesting that a black employee apply suntan lotion to his face. Now, in an attempt to get away from it, he’s selling the team. Tina Becker is now running the team, and Diddy has said he wants to buy the squad, but he doesn’t know their name (he called them the “North Carolina Panthers” in a video) and he has no idea who the quarterback is.

Free Food

Coffee Break: There’s a new novel from Zora Neale Hurston coming out, and I could not possibly be happier about this. The legendary writer has long since left us, so the notion of new work coming from one of the best minds in human history is really exciting.

Snack Time: If you haven’t seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi, what are you doing with yourself? In all seriousness, though, check out this story of Kelly Marie Tran, who is the breakout star from the film.

Dessert: If you need something to zap your productivity, here you go.

Daily Dose: 12/15/17

Black Thought is God’s gift to hip-hop fans this Christmas

5:11 PMWhat up, gang? I’m finally back home. It’s snowing, it’s grimy, but I saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi on Friday, so I’m happy.

When I first heard that Black Thought had a 10-minute freestyle on HOT97, I didn’t know what to think. I had just seen him at NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert a month or so ago, and it was great, so I didn’t want to ruin that memory with what was sure to be some over-the-top interview with Funkmaster Flex screaming and dropping bombs all over The Roots’ frontman’s flow. There’s always a place for that, but Thought is a god, and I don’t like seeing him disrespected. Then I watched it. And I watched it again. And again. Fam. It’s completely insane.

Now that weed is legal, so to speak, in many places, it’s hard to watch. There are entire facilities full of black and brown folks who sold weed, and it put them behind bars for the rest of their lives. It broke up their families, ruined communities and destroyed careers. Not because someone smoked marijuana, but because the so-called war on drugs was such a massive overplay from the government that was effectively rooted in racism. But now that it’s popular, oh, guess what? Weed is a luxury lifestyle. It’s borderline sickening, but it’s real.

In the early days of chat, there was but one beast. It was AOL Instant Messenger, the original app that got us all hooked on the concept of direct, private, instant communication. Well before texting was the thing, AIM was what people used not just to talk with each other but also to express themselves. It was customizable with colors, there were “away messages” — which were, in some ways, the earliest form of Twitter — and it was generally just vital to life. Now, it’s completely done. But we had to pay respect to the originator one last time.

Saturday night, a legendary New York Knicks player makes a return to Madison Square Garden. No, not Charles Oakley, I’m talking about Carmelo Anthony. The Oklahoma City Thunder, who picked up Melo along with Paul George this summer, are not in fact very good at all, but that’s beside the point. Anthony’s legacy in New York is an interesting one, as the team basically was not very good at all while he was there, and now that he’s gone they’re competitive again. Their new star, Kristaps Porzingis, thinks that the Garden should cheer him.

Free Food

Coffee Break: We’re at the point of the year that if you go to an all-Christmas music soundtrack in your home or office, no one could blame you. We’re 10 days out, so it’s officially time to crank out the carols and holiday cheer. Check out this thread of black Christmas songs.

Snack Time: Queen Latifah is very smart. She’s been in the game for quite a long time, and she knows the game very well. And she’s got a clause in all her movie contracts that says something very interesting.

Dessert: This man is my hero. Atlanta, stand up.

 

Daily Dose: 12/14/17

Omarosa has officially left the building

5:15 PMWhat’s up, gang? I’m still in Bristol, Connecticut, where it snowed, so that was fun. It’s also another TV day, so be sure to tune in to Around the Horn at 5 p.m. EST on ESPN.

The White House has officially gotten Omarosa Manigault Newman out of the paint. The onetime reality TV star, who then was given a job at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. that nobody could ever really define, was apparently escorted out of the building in D.C. recently, which is about as awkward an exit as you can muster. They say they just deactivated her pass, which is another hilarious move in the world of passive-aggressive power plays. But she’s got a story to tell, and it’s most likely going to be a fun one. Not shedding many tears.

Welp, say goodbye to net neutrality. The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to strip what are commonly known as net neutrality rules, meaning that depending on what an internet service provider wants to do, it can speed or slow your service, or really do anything it wants based on content. This matters because it allows the providers to become de facto content regulators, which is a dangerous precedent, many believe. If you’re wondering, yes, the politics within the FCC definitely matter in this scenario.

There are parts of the world where Santa Claus is not a white guy. Don’t ask Megyn Kelly about that, but I digress. For example, I remember when I grew up, Prince George’s (County) Plaza in Maryland was the place where you knew Black Santa was a thing. Parents from all around the region would bring their children to give them a positive experience of what Christmas is. But what is it really like being a black Santa Claus? Is Kris Kringle racism really something that has to be dealt with? Well, now you’ve got answers.

Scottie Pippen is tremendous. Am I saying that partially because I got to meet him this week at ESPN? Yes. Am I saying that because he still throws shade at Michael Jordan every now and again? Yes. Am I saying that because he was involved in a completely stupid feud with Future and came out looking like a classy person? Absolutely. He was on First Take on Thursday and basically said that LeBron James is better than Michael Jordan statistically. First off, we all knew that. But there’s something particularly terrific about Scottie saying it.

Free Food

Coffee Break: When it comes to journalism movies, I don’t play. As someone who’s worked in quite a few newsrooms over the years, getting that dynamic down is not an easy task, but it’s an important one. The fact that this list of great journalism movies doesn’t include The Paper is an outright travesty. Seriously, how?

Snack Time: Tavis Smiley is the latest powerful on-air news personality to have his reputation and career brought down by allegations of sexual misconduct. Alas.

Dessert: If you care about the media business, this is a huge deal.