Just remember who said it
“They have no clue about racism”-Jim Brown, on ESPN Radio this morning
As you’ve probably guested, we at FreeDarko are not exactly in a position to speak authoritatively about race in the NBA. Some of us are pretty dark, several of us could get away with claiming non-white when we take standardized tests, and (here it comes) I can always mouth "Holocaust" if you want to call me out on my people’s place in the big book of discrimination. But on the real, I’m not black, none of our contributors are, and I’d just as soon defer to African-Americans in the league when it comes to deciding what they think might stink of Grand Wizardry. Jermaine O’Neal, rapidly growing into his generation’s spokesman on all things hoops, life, and society, says the age limit would be racist; my groveling respect for him aside, it’s not my place to test his reasoning.
One thing’s for sure: I’m sick of the “high school kids are killing the league” argument. The other day I read a column (on ESPN.com, I think) that laid out, in numbers plain and simple, what an infimitesimal impact high schoolers really are having on the game. The only place they stand out is in the draft, and in the complications they present for a franchise’s long-term plans. You’ve got to bring them along differently, coach them more attentively, and be willing to eat a few years of salary if you think you’ve got the next T-Mac bulking up on the bench. But these cases are relatively rare, and even if he only turns out to be a serviceable player, well, it’s not like teams never waste picks on college players that end up busts.
It makes the draft less fun and waters down the talent level in the college game. Period. Neither of these things affects the culture of the NBA. Euro’s, the high schoolers no one talks about, register even less on the league’s cumulative radar, and very few college balers come out after their freshman year—your youthful flaws have been on display for too long. The one’s that do have to be ridiculously sound prospects—Melo, Bosh, Marvin Williams this year. Then you’ve got most kids back for year two, and bang, they’ve stayed the two years the NBA wants them to, in all but the most exceptional (or misguided) cases.
But when Jim Brown, who has as much political clout as anyone alive in sports (only because Ali can’t really express himself like he used to) says something, I’ve got to take that into account. Brown’s message is pretty simple: stop whining, you don’t know how good you’ve got it. He likes O’Neal’s point about the draft age being eighteen, but thinks that even a good egg like O’Neal doesn’t quite appreciate how hard it has historically been for black athletes to ever get paid like they deserve. O’Neal should be taking advantage of his wealth and attention to make things easier for everyone, not just worry about how other ballers might have to wait two years to collect.
I’m not saying O’Neal is wrong, or that Brown gets to decide what’s right for every African-American out there. Still, as much weight as O’Neal’s words have come to carry, they’re nothing in face of the mighty Jim Brown. Whether the point is “you aren’t doing anything, why do you get to birdwatch for injustice in the world” or “what you have to go through ain’t shit,” it does make you wonder why NBA-players can’t just grin and bear college like their peers in football. It’s not like the argument against it is anything but “we deserve what’s ours as soon as we want it;” it’s simplistic and myopic, and I doubt that they’ll be able to work around that by invoking racism. Especially not if they’ve got Jim Brown saying they don’t know the first thing about it.
I had to cut out before the end of the interview, so if anyone heard the whole thing and thinks I missed the point, or if something happened that complete contradicts my take on thing, holla back!!!!.