There's a lot of hand-wringing about the sordid affairs of Ohio high school basketball star LeBron James. The search for blame placement is in full swing, and a lot of the angst is born out of an unwillingness to recognize the many ways our world has changed.
Hey, the kid was finally ruled ineligible because he took a couple of replica jerseys of Walter Payton and Wes Unseld. The fact that those jerseys were valued at $845 tells you how much our world has changed. Things are out of whack Ñ but people should accept that and move on.
A lot of people think that LeBron James has been exploited. Spare me. He's got Nike, Adidas and a company called And 1 vying for the chance to give him a $25 million shoe contract before he signs his $12 million NBA contract. He's driving a new Hummer with a base price of $50,000 even before the three television sets were installed.
These are the people who think it's terrible that James' games have been on pay per view and that his team has traveled all over the country.
Well, first of all, look around. The Oregon City girls have been traveling for years. Jefferson's boys travel. The top teams do it.
As for telecasting games, you charge admission. You attempt to defray the cost of high school sports. In most cases, you don't earn enough to pay for laundering towels Ñ but if you can make more and bank it, I say go for it.
Some people think it's terrible that he hasn't been compensated for all the money being made off him. Be serious. Call it an internship. He's months away from huge bucks, and he's being asked to play just for the enjoyment of being a prep athlete. It's not unlike the dues that doctors pay as interns or trainees pay before becoming full-fledged professionals in their chosen occupation.
Wake up, America. 'Amateur' basketball these days is ruled by street agents, AAU coaches, hustlers and con men. A caller to my radio show, a former coach, made a great point when he said: 'Grade school sports are like high school used to be, and high school is like college used to be. College is like the pros used to be.'
Sports have been turned up a notch, and no one is going to be able to do much about it.
This kid's mom, Gloria, is unemployed and lives in subsidized housing, but a bank lent her money to buy the kid his new car, based simply on his value to shoe companies and basketball teams. According to the Los Angeles Times, when she saw Nike's Phil Knight at Magic Johnson's charity event last summer, she yelled, 'What've you got for me, 'playa'?'
When James' team played in a tournament at UCLA, the player and his entourage went to the gym in a chauffeured limo while the rest of the team rode a bus.
This is our world. It's not always a pretty place. It never was. But it is what it is.