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Celebrating a brotherhood of articulate, thinking role models

Shi Hui Tan
14 Nov 2019, 21:36 IST

Steph Curry and LeBron James
Steph Curry and LeBron James

"Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids,” - Charles Barkley’s (in)famous conclusion in his 1993 Nike advertisement. 

Which brings me to my next question: do the present NBA players exhibit such sentiments? Or do they stand for something bigger than basketball?

Darren Collison recently announced his retirement from the NBA to focus on other aspects of his life, in particular, his faith.

Collison hopes that he will be able to make a different impact on his community, through his faith. Most fans were shocked at this news as Collison was a solid, serviceable role-player who had definitely played his way to a new lucrative deal this past season.

In today’s era of superteams, Collison's playmaking skills would have fit seamlessly into any contending team’s second unit. Beyond that, his improved outside shot and ability to get to the rim would have placed him on many teams’ wishlist this offseason. Why then, would Collison leave the NBA?

At the very least, his move showed that he had thought about his post-NBA future and the impact he could have on the next generation beyond basketball.

Collison is not the first to exit the NBA in the prime of his career. Not too long ago, Larry Sanders also walked away from the NBA on the back of a 4-year, $44 million deal, citing anxiety and depression.

Sanders could have remained silent and cited “undisclosed reasons” for leaving the NBA. However, he figured that he could use the platform that the league had given him to shed light on mental illness. To him, the NBA and the millions that were promised were not worth it. 

One of the better guards the NBA has seen.
One of the better guards the NBA has seen.

What about the wider community?

Have we observed the schools LeBron James has built in his hometown? Thus far, the 'I Promise School' has produced outstanding results albeit the small sample size of 240 students.

The inaugural classes of third and fourth graders at I Promise posted astonishing results in their first set of assessments. 90 percent met or exceeded individual growth goals in reading and math.

The 90 percent of I Promise students who met their goals exceeded the 70 percent of students districtwide, and scored in the 99th growth percentile of the evaluation association’s school norms.

NBA Player LeBron James Visits China
NBA Player LeBron James Visits China

How have the new generation of players used their talents to inspire others?

For Stephen Curry, it is through his camps. NBA players have always organised camps for the best high school and college players. Among the highly publicised ones are the annual CP3 camp and the SC30 Select Camp.

Recently, Curry launched another camp, the Underrated Tour. In his article with the Players' Tribune, he detailed his reasons for it. He believes that basketball empowers, and players should not always be so prematurely judged on their weaknesses.

And Curry is right, because what good does the overbearing scrutiny or lack of recognition do? Many of these players will not become professionals and basketball will cease after high school or college.

However, what they will bring with them are the experiences; how basketball has made them feel. There is nothing worse than to be put down all your life, and in the one sport that you love as well. 

"I was once given a chance too"

There has been much talk about the direction the NBA is heading: “The game has gone soft”, “players are actually friends with one another”. Perhaps we should stop romanticising the tough 80s/90s “bad boy” basketball and appreciate what these NBA players are bringing to the table nowadays.

Be it through coming to terms with the reality of being an NBA player and empowering fellow athletes, or building schools to advance education and growing closer to their faith, these athletes are consciously aware of their spheres of influence, and thinking about the future.

It is bigger than a game. The players know it. It is time we learn it as well.

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