After Further Review … "The best (NBA) players are often identified by the time they hit puberty, then hermetically sealed in programs and club teams, ushered from hotel to gym and back to hotel. Any pursuit outside basketball is deemed a distraction, frivolous and ultimately pointless," wrote Sports Illustrated writer Lee Jenkins in a recent issue. And we wonder what happens to players after they leave puberty, go to college, turn pro — then fall from grace.
While the issue here is the NBA, similar incidents of repugnant behavior are far too common in all professional sports and now are creeping into college athletic programs. Is there a chance this kind of behavior can or will change? Maybe.
Maybe, because at least in the NBA we have one new owner, maybe three. While I'm not blaming ownership for the problems caused by some athletes, owners could be first and foremost in reestablishing what the 'privilege' of being a professional athlete means.
This comes to mind as Michael Jordan takes on majority ownership of the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats. This is the same Michael Jordan who won all those championships as a player for the Chicago Bulls. Jordan is the FIRST former NBA player to buy an NBA T.E.A.M. While we have had former players as general managers, and of course, coaches and while it's not that they haven't tried to help players be top-notch citizens as well as NBA champions, it’s just that there hasn’t been much progress in the former. Could it be that perhaps players’ exorbitant salaries seduce them into believing that money can "get you out of trouble?"
Jordan, as owner, now can set a standard that others have failed to establish. As a player, he had the reputation of "making other players around him play better." He now has an opportunity to set a path of professional behavior on and off the court. What an example that could set for younger players to follow.
Maybe the presence of 6’8” Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire who is in negotiations to buy the New Jersey Nets, can reinforce the challenge facing Jordan. Or perhaps Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, who wants to buy the Golden State Warriors, will use his “Gospel of Oracle” to create not only a winning franchise, but a respected one with respectable players.
Will you change your feelings about professional athletes if these owners can make a difference in improving player behavior?