When You Believe In That Pipe Dream Be Careful Of The Lies Being Told

By Gregory Moore
Updated: July 1, 2005

Jackie Butler

In 2004, Jackie Butler thought that being 6’10″ would get him into the NBA but as he and so many other high school prospects found out, size isn’t everything and that skills and maturity is what will get you in the league. But is that still enough now that the NBA has slapped an age limit on draft entry?

SAN ANTONIO – Black America I want you to hear my voice through these words. For this very important topic I am Bill Cosby. I am Nelson Mandela, Stokely Carmichael and any other important figure that you may hold dear and listen to when you need to have something drummed into your words. I want everyone who has a young man who thinks he will be in the NBA to not only read this column but also take these words seriously because the time for being obtuse about this situation has to stop and it has to stop now. All you fathers, uncles and other family members who think you know the business of the National Basketball Association go sit in the corner after you have apologized to your loved one for lying to him. All of you coaches and wannabe agents I want you to turn your whistles and Nextel i830s into the fraud police because you have ruined too many young men’s lives in this year’s draft and drafts from the past. All of you mothers I want this message to go directly to you because evidently you are the only ones who seem to have a little bit of intelligence and common sense and understand the seriousness of the situation. So here it is and I’m not going to beat around the bush with this message. Black America you need to stop living the pipe dream with your young athletes. You need to stop it right now because when you believe in that pipe dream, be careful of the lies being told.

Normally I wouldn’t even come out the batter’s box like this but I’ve written too many articles trying to prepare folks about the Armageddon that was upon this community. For some enigmatic reason it seems that the words that I write and what others have written have fallen on deaf ears. Excuses have been made and lies have been told in order to squash what the messengers who know the truth have been trying to say for years. The gravy train where high school phenoms are all the rage is now officially over as of last Tuesday night in Madison Square Gardens. Actually that pipe dream ends this 4th of July weekend. That’s a hell of an Independence Day celebration for so many kids who were looking forward to trying to be the next LeBron James but how many times has this column and others who are in this field tried to prepare you for the inevitable? How many e-mails have you fired off to the ‘messengers’ saying that we were wrong, that we were against these young men going after the big bucks and leaving collegiate sports? How many of you have said that these kids had an indelible right to seek employment in the NBA? I can’t count the number of e-mails I received from some readers who thought I was ‘anti-black’ because I couldn’t see that the league was being racist in their practices. Well maybe race did have a play in the decision but it was something that should have prepared the community and I was trying my best to get that message out to the public.

I can only imagine how Dr. Cosby, Cornell West and others feel when they come up against such backlash from the community. Maybe I need to send this message through such talk show hosts like WVON’s Cliff Kelley or maybe the Bad Boy of radio himself, Michael Biesden. Would they help get this message out about the importance of not trying to put your hopes and dreams on the line when it comes to trying to be in the NBA? Would Tom Joyner and Tavis Smiley help get the message across? How about if I and a few other Black sports writers from across the country just hold a damn roundtable like the Sports Reporters and we just rail on the negatives of trying to grow up too damn fast in a league where one of the monikers is “No Babies Allowed”. Black America what would it take for you to now realize that you have to approach this dream from a different avenue if you want these young men to succeed? What tools do you need besides being spoon-fed the solution? I’m curious because evidently nobody was prepared for what has come down. The bottom has fallen folks and you still think the foundation is as firm as the Rock of Gibraltar.

YOU WANT THESE YOUNG MEN TO SUCCEED…THEN HELP THEM I’m going to be honest with you about this past draft. I was ecstatic that not many high school kids were taken in the draft and that none of them went in the first four picks. The reason why I was glad it happened was because now the very community that I write for has to come up with a better solution and that solution is to realize that trying to become a professional athlete in the NBA isn’t as easy as saying, “Jamal you’re talented and dominating the game at the high school level. You are ready for the NBA”. I’m happy because now it is time for the parents to be parents and quit looking at their own pocketbooks. It is time for the AAU coaches, high school coaches and others who have helped Jamal and others get to the level they are at to now help them become either spectacular collegiate players or prepare them for trying to become a professional athlete through the minor league system. In other words it is time for these groups of individuals who are there simply for the meal tickets, the fancy rides and other baubles that could come from Jamal turning pro to realize that this is a hard road to travel. The days of scouts checking these talented kids out at ABCD camp is now just second guessing potential now because even if Jamal maybe as talented as O.J. Mayo or some of these other talented young men, there will be player academies like the IMG Academy that will snatch them up and prepare them for the draft or to play ball overseas.

You see Black America this is the reality so many others and I have been trying show you before it happened. This is big business and unless you approach the pipe dream in that fashion, you are going to fail. Look at this year’s draft you fathers, coaches and other wannabe talent scouts? Do you see how many high school kids went in this draft? If you don’t let me count them for you. Three and those three happen to be the talented young prospects that could have serviceable careers if they approach this league like it is a job and not as a chance to be on Yo MTV Cribs. You see Black America that is something that has haunted our young Black men to essentially ‘infiltrate’ the league before the door was shut. Too many of you, and yes I’m point the finger at you, have looked at what the riches would be instead of preparing to make this an enterprise. You want to know why the league is going more international in their draft assessments? It’s mainly because across the pond there are leagues that prepare their young prospects for the life of being a professional athlete. Granted they have better avenues that are less time constricted than we do but they prepare their players to be professionals in their craft. What are we doing besides trying to make FSN or ESPN highlights with our young men? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

HEED THE MESSAGE AND BECOME PROACTIVE IN THE CAUSE Black parents, mentors and others who have a young man who could be in the NBA, heed this message because it is something that is real. It is as real as a Dr. Phil episode on how to raise your wayward child. It is as real as you standing in line at the welfare office trying to better yourself. It is as real as finally realizing that you have your first house in a nice neighborhood. This message is as real as anything you can imagine because it has been preached before and no one has listened. Black America it is time for those of you who want your young Jamal to be in the limelight during the next NBA seasons coming to understand that this isn’t a play thing anymore. Nothing is going to be handed to you just because that special kid is tall, quick, got a serious handle or can stroke a jumper as sweet as a black diamond watermelon. If you want your young superstar to have a shot in an upcoming draft, you are going to have to do some unconventional things that have worked in other sports where we are not so prevalent. Here are just a few pointers but they are worth a shot at trying: 1) Put education first in that ball player’s life. Above all else, being able to keep the leaches, hangers on and general populace of latchkey family and friends starts by being educated both in the classroom and in life. Young Jamal has got to understand some basic business principles about some things that you just have to learn in higher learning. Above all else have that ball player be prepared to go to college for a year or two if he is capable. You’d be surprised just at how much it could help him in the long run.

2) Have a back up plan to your main plan and a side plan to that back up plan. If you want Jamal to truly succeed, have avenues to where if one thing doesn’t work, there are other ways to achieve the dream. Yes that may mean going to college or that may mean going overseas to a FIBA league or even toiling around in the NBDL. The point is that you have to be prepared in case something doesn’t come through.

3) Do your homework and find successful representation or advisors who are knowledgeable. Uncle June Bug isn’t going to cut if folks. Check the list of kids who didn’t make it or better still I implore you to actually go to this web link: http://sportsline.com/collegebasketball/story/8606694. I want you to read Gregg Doyel’s column in conjunction to this one because you’ll see that I am not the only one talking about how humiliating this year’s draft was. If you want to learn from history, you have to study it.

Black America it isn’t too late to help some of these young men live their dreams but I’ll be honest with you; I’m tired of watching their dreams go up in smoke because they were ill prepared or not prepared at all. I will never begrudge anyone who has the opportunity to go make millions playing a kid’s sport but I have been at this for far too long to not have the knowledge to pass on some of the things that many do not get from the AAU coaches and others who think they are in the know. I’m doing what Bill Cosby, Malcolm X and others have done for this community. I am passing on a message that needs to be listened. The question this: will the message be heeded or will you continue to believe in that pipe dream of Jamal becoming an NBA player and NOT be mindful of the lies being told. That is the ultimate question for you, Black America, to ponder and answer.