I am an NBA fan through and through. In fact, my goal is to finish this post before game 2 of the Finals starts at 9, my time.
I must admit though that I have sat through many a post-game interview, longing for the days of Jordan, Pippen, Magic, or Isiah, in their Armani suits with tasteful accessories. The issue of image and attire a few years back was so concerning to the League that the Commisioner issued new rules for players’ appearance, attempting to address the issue of “proper attire” on the sideline.
How my favorite athletes present themselves, when it comes to appearance, behavior, and eloquence or lack thereof, is a lightning rod for the predominantly African-American league. The league’s attendance is declining and there seem to be at least a couple of schools of thought as to why this decline is occurring.
One is that the European-American fans are tired of their perceptions of the image of so many of the players, as they reminisce about the days of Hondo, Bird, and West. Some claim that it is outright racism that has led them to stay away. Sportswriter Buzz Bissinger makes this case in his article, “NBA All Star Game: White Men Can’t Root” at http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2011-02-17/nba-all-star-game-white-men-cant-root/#.
Another school of thought is that the cost of attendance is entirely too high and that most families are effectively priced out of the market when it comes to attendance at an NBA game/show. Even though, this can be said for all professional sports.
Shaquille O’Neal announced his retirement from the game two days ago. While his actual basketball accomplishments are numerous enough to virtually guarantee a first ballot entrance into the Hall of Fame; in my opinion, what truly makes this man a hall of famer is that he is an excellent example of how to use your star power in the sport as an ambassador for good. His appearance, behavior, eloquence, and most importantly community service are noteworthy.
There were no “decisions” on primetime television when he moved to another city, no bad mouthing of the other superstar that threw him under the bus to deflect attention from his own troubles, quietness, notwithstanding his ex-wife’s show………lots of toys though at Christmas for the children in the town where he was playing!
Charles Barkley once said that he (Barkley) was not a role model. He insisted instead that parents should be role models. I get Chuck’s point and he is absolutely right, but the reality is that there are a whole lot of youngsters who worship this game that can not look to their parents as role models. The reasons are many. The reality however is that NBA ball players, like it or not, are role models. Their appearance, behavior, and eloquence are some of the barometers for determining the aspirations of so many young inner city males.
Please don’t get me wrong. I know that there are a lot of NBA players who are doing it right, supporting numerous family members, and giving back more than we will ever know. I love my league, its players, their skill, athleticism, and grace. I just hope that Shaq’s example is one of the barometers current and future players will use during their careers as they shape their own legacies.
Shaq tweeted a request that his fans help him with a new retirement nickname. The suggestions are rolling in, for example the “Big Rocking Chair”or the “Big 401 (K)”.
As for me, I think it should be the “Big Example.” What do you think?
Read, learn, and share……….Have a Family Meeting!
C. Randolph Keller