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Off the Front Rim

May 27, 2003 Columns No Comments

Off the Front Rim

by Dean Austin

find myself fascinated by the story of Jayson Blair, the disgraced former New York Times scribe who resigned after allegedly filing false reports. Tom Goldstein in an article well worth reading in the San Francisco Chronicle opinioned, “No breach of faith in modern journalism measures up in size, scope and audacity to the misdeeds committed by Jayson Blair of the New York Times.”

Why are people surprised by this? We have evolved over the past 40 years into a society that thrives on instant gratification; a society that looks for the short cut in everything we do, where lay away is replaced by credit cards and where I want my ten minute brownies in five damn it! It used to be that an individual invested significant time in their career, hard work that brought reward after an appropriate time.

Why should journalism be exempt from this malaise? Now of course I always cite my sauces. A1 is kind of good, the veritable HP sauce is a classic but for just the right taste on those greens, try Heinz Salad Cream. And yet, all silliness aside, would you know if I didn’t? Take for example the case of San Jose State freshman Antonio Lawrence who declared for the NBA draft. Lawrence is a talent, and even as a freshman has enough of the dreaded “upside” to potentially intrigue someone at the end of the 2nd round. The young man has generally been dissed for declaring and ESPN even went so far as to label it the worst early entry decision. All true, but apparently the story behind this decision is rather sad. Lawrence’s Grandmother is said to have cancer and the freshman is going pro in the hope of raising some money. How do I know this, intrepid reporting, unique sources? The answer is in fact a quick couple of paragraphs, without even a reporter byline, at the end of an article in the Alameda Times Star talking about a Pacific 10 conference expansion.

But would you have known if I had started this column announcing my “exclusive?” And would I have been caught? The answer I’m afraid is probably no to both.

This need for instant gratification was never more evident this past week. King James signs a $90 million shoe contract, prevents the Gunds from selling their franchise and energizes an entire city whose current claim to fame is Drew Carrey. Hey whatta you know, Carey was right, Cleveland Rocks! Of course his LeBron-ness is a prodigious talent, can fly through the air with the greatest of ease and has a court awareness that leaves the scouts drooling. There does however remain more than a sneaking suspicion that he can use a little work on his game, especially his outside shot. The NBA is not the place to be learning such a skill, even Kobe and KG took time to adjust and could have used the time in college.

You can’t blame Carmelo Anthony for going pro after winning the National Championship. Well maybe you can’t but I can. It’s a dumb move. Sure he’ll go to Denver and play well with the Nuggets for a couple of years, see out his rookie contract and sign with the Knicks. But even given his supreme talent this is a young man that could have benefited from three more years of college. He’ll make his millions now and in the future but those missed years of fundamentals will prevent him from being a Superstar. Maybe he doesn’t care, but he’ll never be the player he could have been.

It seems a lifetime ago that Michael Jordan stayed three years at North Carolina and then you realize that it is a lifetime ago. LeBron was born after Jordan left North Carolina. There will never be “another Michael Jordan” until one of the great high schoolers bucks the trend and goes to college for more than a cup of tea. Jordan’s disdain for his teammates lack of work ethic was self-evident all year in Washington. Most individuals learn to knuckle down at the end of high school and during college. You learn what is required to be successful in the workplace. Remove that urgency and you end up with the self-centered lackadaisical pro basketball players we have today. The NBA is worse for it and so is the college game.


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