Kudos to NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul Jabbar for proposing that the NBA should raise its minimum age for entry into the league to 21 years young! Jababar, now 63, had led the Los Angeles Lakers to (count them) 5 NBA tiles in the 1980s. He is now an assistant for the Lakers organization, a successful business person, and a motivational speaker. He also holds degrees in English and History.
Jabbar realizes that an appreciation for education as well as becoming a star athlete need not be mutually exclusive. Fortunately, for Jabbar, there where coaches who stressed getting an education just in case thing did’t work out, acknowledging that nothing is wrong with putting the student before the athlete. The age for entry into the league is now 19, which is still too young in my opinion. No one wants to deprive talented youngsters from pursuing their dreams of fortune and fame. However, just as it is in the world of show business, the unemployment rate is frightfully low.
Not to mention the emotional maturity one needs to succeed in professional sports as well. Let’s face it, everyone is not going to become the next Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, or LeBron James. To think so is simply unrealistic.
I also sense a much deeper concern in this whole scenario. There is an anti-intellectualism at work in my opinion. This is not only prevelant in the culture at large, but specifically in the African American community. And why not? Celebrity culture is all the rage and even the notion of delayed gratification is blasphemy in a society that worships youth and wants what it wants when it wants it. There are signs that this sentiment is changing— slowly. However, when I speak to many high school students in the community there is still an overwhelming response when speaking about career plans to wanting the entertainment or athletic fields as first choices for careers. When I inquire about intellectual heroes or sheroes as role models, the face goes blank and the eyes glaze over.
This is not to say that everyone must strive to walk the path of student/ athlete Myron Rolle and to become a Rhodes Scholar as well as entertaining a possible NFL career. What I am suggesting however it to imagine the possibilities. Isn’t that what sports and life is all about?