I wish the NBA (and all of the other professional sports leagues) would show some (more) compassion and concern for the guys who “fall by the wayside” and really struggle with their transition into real and everyday life. We hear way too many of these stories and not enough about the former players who are making a positive contribution to society.
As a former NBA player, I know how the professional sporting leagues “put the guys out to pasture” after their playing days are over and have very little use for them. We have to go out into the world and “carve out our own little niche” (as I am doing in China), but most of us are not well prepared for that (yes, shame on us… I hear you!) after dedicating 80% – 90% of our growing up years towards “perfecting our craft” so that we can hopefully play in the pros.
I’ve written about this before, and my wish, my hope, is that the NBA would develop a “real” mentoring program featuring former NBA players who have gone on and “made something of themselves” (and meeting certain criteria) and hire them to be mentors on a 24/7 basis for so many of our young vulnerable athletes in the NBA.
I work closely with both of the NBA retired player associations (NBRPA aka: National Basketball Retired Players Association and the PBAA aka: Professional Basketball Alumni Association) and we have enough former players who meet the criteria so that there can be virtually a “one on one” mentor/mentee match for every current player in the NBA.
As a former board member for the NBRPA (National Basketball Retire Players Association), not a month went by where I, as a board member, wasn’t informed of yet another former NBA player who has fallen upon hard times, become homeless, drug addicted, imprisoned our facing child custody issues.
The problem is that so many of these young men come into the world of professional sports “terribly under-prepared” for what that world is all about, and then they exit that world into the “real world” even less prepared for what the “real world” is all about.
It’s a real waste and shame.
I mentor 3 – 4 young men just like Keon Clark right now, and I try to help them to see that they have to develop a “back up” plan, stay in (or go back to) school and get your degree, surround yourself with positive people and don’t waste your wonderful opportunity that your athletic ability is providing for you.
It hurts me to no end to see young men like Keon, throw not only their sporting career away, but essentially, their lives as well.
We can do better, we ought to do better… and hopefully, after reading yet another “Keon Clark” story… we will do better!