As the yearly tournament of the best college basketball teams in the country gets underway, it’s a good time to sit back and reflect on all of this March Madness. You will find no shortage of talented, young Black men doing magic on the court in the next few weeks. But this game is so linked to the identify of the African-American male and has been for half a century, that you have to wonder what has been it’s effects overall. Day and night, millions of Black boys and men spend hour after hour, day and night, mastering the moves and skills involved in moving this orange ball around and in a basket. Certainly, there is a great appeal to the game. It is relatively cheap to play, is enjoyed solo or with a group of friends, can serve as a gateway to respect and admiration in neighborhoods lacking strong male figures or heroes of any kind, and is a path to the rich and famous lifestyle so many of these young men desire.
But the concern I have is that the percentage of young black men chasing the basketball dream is incredibly large. Getting to the National Basketball League involves making it to a top college basketball program. Even, then, you need to stand out in some way from the thousands of other highly talented kids. A statistic from Livestrong.com says that 0.3% of high school basketball players make it to the pro leagues. Even more alarming is another stat: only 10% of NBA players have a career longer than 4 years. Even if this 0.3% finally make it to the mountaintop, it will be for a brief time. It might be argued that these kids will at least move on to college and get a higher education. Sadly, only 3% of high schoolers continue play at the college level. Here lies the problem. Millions of black males are dedicating themselves to a sport with little reward, at the expense of developing other academic and work-related skills to support themselves and any future families. Outside of coaching, there are few fall back careers requiring the ability to dribble and throw a round ball into a basket. With so many dreamers, we are becoming less and less prepared for reality.
Those lucky enough to make it to the NBA still have nothing much to offer the Black community. Millions are spent on mansions, yachts, and other money drainers. 60% of retired NBA players are broke after 5 years. Event worse, NBA players are constantly on the road and constantly surrounded by attractive women hoping to have a taste of the good life. The NBA player associated with infidelity and baby momma drama seems more of the rule than the exception.
I love basketball and spent a good chunk of my youth playing it as well. But what we are lacking is perspective. Basketball must stop being the lifestyle and the dream gateway and more of the hobby. I blame a great deal on high schools who are letting these kids move through their classes simply because of their basketball talent. Having good grades should be a requirement to even being on a team. When the game ends, these poor kids are left with no skills and no solid plan for the future. Let’s stop the madness.