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NBA needs to teach guys like Arenas
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So there is little reason to marvel at Gilbert Arenas’ stupidity. He’s in crowded company, many of the NBA’s biggest names have as little self-awareness as Agent Zero IQ.
To them, the NBA is not a business. It’s the Senior AAU Tour with bi-weekly paychecks, private planes that double as floating casinos and a potential baby mama (or two) waiting in every city.
For sparking a Dec. 21, show-us-your-guns showdown in the Wizards locker room and joking about it on Twitter and in pregame warmups, Agent Zero is Public Enemy No. 1 in the sports world right now, momentarily replacing Tiger’s Wood.
Arenas justifiably thinks the controversy is absurd and humorous. He’s been in The League nine years. He’s acutely aware that of all the gun-toting NBA players he’s the one his peers would vote most likely to bring an unloaded weapon to the locker room.
That’s right, according to Thursday’s Washington Post, when confronted by Arenas’ strategically placed, unloaded weapons, Javaris Crittenton grabbed his own loaded gun and cocked one in the chamber.
Singling out Arenas as the NBA’s lone idiot gunman is as naive as believing Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.
Can we really blame Arenas for being slow to understand the seriousness of his transgression when Delonte West still toils for the Cavaliers after getting popped by police while tooling around on a motorcycle strapped with a 9mm Beretta, a .357 Ruger, a shotgun slung over his shoulder and enough ammo to film the say-hello-to-my-little-friend scene of Scarface?
It’s not that I disagree with the NBA’s decision to indefinitely suspend Arenas -- Gilbert had become such a distraction the league had no choice -- I just recognize the inherent limitations of the punishment meted out by commissioner David Stern and called for by civil-rights opportunist Al Sharpton.
Harsh sanction is not the cure for ignorance. Education is.
OK, I get that without punishment, a basketball player with a $100 million contract would have little interest in the kind of education necessary to cure what ails him. Stern must be brutal in his treatment of Arenas in hopes of getting the attention of the other players.
What will Stern do when he has their attention? Does the NBA (or NFL) have the courage to take the long-overdue, bold steps to correct the image problem stunting its economic growth?
Will the NBA make a legitimate attempt at educating its players?
Arenas gives Stern and NBA owners the leverage to aggressively pursue long-term solutions to problems that have plagued the league since Magic, Larry and Michael turned the league over to high school, one-and-done superstars, Allen Iverson wannabes, children from highly dysfunctional families and boys raised to be replacement husbands by single mothers.
The league, shoe companies and television networks turn improperly prepared, poorly educated kids into high-profile, instant multimillion-dollar companies. The kids can’t comprehend the responsibility, let alone handle it.
The ones who spend a year or two on a college campus are not afforded the opportunity to study their profession in a classroom. They have no idea the challenges they face entering the NBA are far more treacherous, pressurized and intricate than the ones NBA players confronted just 20 years ago.
They have zero understanding of the history of their game, American sports’ tradition of promoting patriotism and mainstream family values. They’re clueless about their customer base and the corporations that make their ridiculous salaries possible.
It took a week of constant media criticism, an indefinite suspension and the threat of jail time and the loss of a $100 million contract for Arenas to comprehend that his “joking” confrontation with Crittenton damaged the NBA brand.
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“I feel very badly that my actions have caused the NBA to suspend me, but I understand why the league took this action,” Arenas said in a prepared statement Wednesday evening. “I put the NBA in a negative light.”
It just dawned on Arenas that the NBA is a major, mainstream business. It’s not the And1 Tour.
If I were Stern, I’d use this latest player-instigated embarrassment to implement an elevation of the league’s age limit to 21 and entice NCAA schools to offer elite athletes (and other students) majors in the study of professional sports. If a musician can study music, why can’t a basketball player study sports? Sports have played as significant a role in influencing American culture as music or art.
The NCAA and its member universities have an obligation to offer athletes an education in a field in which they have a passion. You can argue that a degree in “sports” would be useless for a non-professional athlete. If you make that argument, you don’t have a mature understanding of the purpose of education. I’m a writer. Learning algebra enhanced my ability to think critically. Education is primarily a tool to help us think critically.
Gilbert Arenas can’t think critically. Like most elite athletes, no one has ever tried to teach him to think in a language and field he enjoys.
If I were Stern, I’d build a wage scale that rewarded players who completed their college education before entering the NBA and I’d offer additional financial incentives to players who completed a league-sponsored-and-operated advanced educational program explaining the business of basketball.
Educated players would get paid more than uneducated ones. That’s how it works in most businesses.
There’s a major difference between playing the game and having an understanding of the game that you’re playing. The lack of understanding fosters Gilbert Arenases and leaves them broke when the NBA tires of their stupidity.
You can e-mail Jason at BallState0@aol.com or follow him on Twitter.