David Stern�s State of the League Address Should Be Taken Seriously This Time

By Gregory Moore
Updated: June 13, 2006

SAN ANTONIO — David Stern is upset with how America�s basketball players at the high school level are being developed. The NCAA has just released a list of fifteen so-called high schools that it will not accept diplomas from through its clearinghouse.

For many in the African American community, this is nothing more than a smoke screen for implementing an exclusionary program that would weed out the African American basketball player at the high school level from even attempting to make the jump to the NBA.

For many in the Black community, they see this as nothing more than another step from Stern�s program of Euro-influenced dominance in a league that was once flourishing with Black talent. Many would point to the recent age restriction rule that was imposed this season and the dress code that was implemented.

But as is now being the norm by the so-called collective brain trust of this community, the so-called experts are very much wrong on this issue. Stern isn�t putting up a smoke screen to cover some deep covert operation of �Operation Black Removal� or something like that. Stern is very much concerned that the basketball landscape that America has is eroding very fast and he wants to do something about it.

“How do you expect to take a kid and drop him into a cauldron if he hasn’t been prepared for boiling,” Stern said. “Could you have done more to prepare him for the heat then you’ve done?”

This year�s State of the NBA Address that Stern gave the media in Dallas last week was probably one of the most poignant messages he has ever given those assembled to cover an NBA Finals. Ironically it seems that maybe Stern�s message and the message that this column has been trying to get out to a segment of the Black community for years is finally on one accord.

To those who just cover the NBA and do not have any true connect to the inner �sanctum� of what many kids want to be in life. For many kids in the Black community, it is become a professional athlete or bust.

The premise for many of these kids have that vision engrained in them by family members who have not thought of anything else that would be as successful or rewarding and when the shoe companies or somebody like Sonny Vaccarro comes along and offers that child a chance at playing at a high level where they can get noticed by college scouts and hammerhead sharks called agent runners, these parents jump at the chance.

And for many, the true development of that child�s talent on the basketball court is forever cut short because the parents, family members, agents, hanger ons and the players think that they have reached the end of their rainbow. For many, that pot of gold is right there in front of them. And when a few of them reach the NBA and fall flat on their face, they are quick to point at the league and say that they wee exploited.

Whether you want to believe it or not, the onus of this problem actually lies right where Stern wants to target the problem. The only problem that this writer has with Stern�s finger pointing is that he�s not going deep enough into the problem. Before there are AAU teams at the high school levels, there are AAU teams at the lower levels of play; mainly the elementary school levels.

Before those kids, who are good enough to excel on an AAU team, there are church leagues and volunteer leagues that are supposed to teach the fundamentals of the game but they are not doing so. If Stern really wants to fix the problem that he sees, he has to be willing to help develop a comprehensive solution to a problem that comes from the laziness that has set in on the amateur basketball landscape of this country.

There is nothing wrong with what Stern wants to do. Now should a professional league get so involved in this solution that it actually becomes the pariah that it is trying to eradicate in the form of overzealous coaches, manipulators and vermin that many of us who cover basketball knows exist?

Probably not.

I remember a good e-mail exchange of when Aaron Goodwin commented on my article about the role of the Black agent when Terrell Owens was in his troubled time of being �fired� from the Philadelphia Eagles. Aaron and I lost contact but from what I could gather, he was truly concerned about the demise of the Black athlete and the lack of a good foundation that many of these young men need in their lives.

Taking this into the realm of discussion at hand, I firmly believe that there are some good sports agents out there in this field who want the American basketball player to succeed at every level they compete in.

I also firmly believe that there is a consensus in the basketball community where there can be a roundtable discussion, a think tank panel movement and a blue ribbon commission that could hear the issues at hand, listen to the parents and players who have fallen through the crack and then recommend a solution that would benefit everyone concerned. Stern definitely believes this to be the case; especially when it comes how the current system operates.

“We have just begun to ask ourselves the question, is there something subject to a thicket of rules that makes it illegal for the NBA to think about certain things without destroying a kid’s collegiate eligibility,” Stern said. “It just strikes us that there is something out of whack that these world-class athletes get exploited and exposed all the way up.”

Bringing this back to how the Black community can actually address this issue, it is time for this community face the reality that we, as a community, have become the very pariah that they want to rid themselves. When it comes to protecting our athletic talent, we would rather let these young men go out and get exploited by anyone who we believe can take them to a higher plane than rather help them cultivate their talents both on and off the court.

One of the biggest obstacles that this writer has seen over the years of covering the NBA is the lack of accountability by parents to actually want their star players to get further knowledge of the game of basketball in college. There is a matriculation process that truly has to be followed for the American basketball player because the avenues that are available in Europe do not fit the way of life here across the pond.

When it comes to teaching the fundamentals, the programs, leagues and clubs that are established for these young ball players at even the earliest age of seven years old are so inadequate in development that there is no wonder why there is an influx of mediocre talent at the professional ranks.

What Commissioner David Stern wants to implement is something that is coming about because our basketball programs are failing these young men. What makes the matter even worse is that unbeknown to the Black community, we are at the very epicenter of the problem.

Because so many parents, family members and others have decided that quick cash is the easiest thing to solve a family situation, we are leaving these young players exposed to the perils that Stern is talking about in his message. Whether the community wants to hear this message or not, the message that Stern is saying isn�t a message of exclusion aimed at the Black ball player.

On the contrary, he is doing something that should have been done years ago when this problem first surfaced; he is simply now stating the obvious of something that we all have known for years.

It is now up to those who listened in that press conference and to those who are reading this op/ed and others on the topic to take up the torch and actually do something about this prevalent problem before the American basketball player, and yes the Black basketball player, becomes an endangered species at the NBA level.