At work Saturday night, a woman asked me to hold her baby. I agreed. The baby threw up on me. I wasn’t surprised, as I have been inspiring that reaction in girls of all ages for years. (Don’t worry; I’m sort of going somewhere with this.)
Think of high school basketball star LeBron James as me, and the baby throwing up on him as the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA). James was ruled ineligible after accepting $845 worth of throwback-style jerseys from Next Urban Gear and Music. The Association’s ruling was stupid and wrong.
James, if you’re unfamiliar with him, is likely to be the first pick in the NBA draft. When that happens in just a few months, he will become a multi-millionaire. That doesn’t even include the endorsements he will certainly get. Adidas basketball rep Sonny Vaccaro said that a deal for James could be in the $25-million range, according to ESPN.com. The downside is that he’ll be playing for a team bad enough to pick first in the NBA draft. That’s punishment enough, in my humble opinion.
I can’t help thinking that the Association was looking for a reason to declare James ineligible. Before suspending him for the jerseys, they had just concluded an investigation concerning a Hummer he received for his 18th birthday. Nothing came of that inquiry.
Ending James’ amateur career prematurely was extreme and unwarranted. They say James broke a rule forbidding an amateur to take advantage of his fame. That’s funny considering that Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary’s, James’ school, has had its basketball games televised on Pay-Per-View for $7.95 a pop. Who else are they tuning in to see? I’ve seen games televised nationally and can confidently say I’ve seen more St. Vincent-St. Mary’s games than I saw of my own high school team in the four years I was there.
Back to the baby vomit metaphor. Yes, a baby threw up on me. I had to put up with it for a few hours, but it washed right out. James will still be drafted early, even if his high school career is over. He will go on to make more in the next calendar year than I will ever see. In the long run, this won’t affect him. All he has to do is make it through this media blitz and he’ll be fine. It makes the OHSAA look bad for dumping a cash cow over a paltry matter. They’ve basically ensured that he’ll never donate a dime to them or to his school.
It makes sense to me that the store that gave him the free clothes, would be eager to cultivate a relationship with James. Everyone knows he’s hot property and about to be rich. It’s like the store manager, Derrick Craig, says: “We get celebrities in here all the time. They spend a lot of money and sometimes you just got to give them some love.” Indeed.
In theory, the OHSAA’s vow to treat James like any of the other athletes is good, but he is clearly not like any of their other athletes. He’s more skilled and is about to become rich. I just can’t leave that alone. Since there are only a few games left, an appeal is useless.
With his professional career just around the corner, I’m confident that he’ll get over missing his last high school games. But having to miss them over something so small and stupid is a waste of talent. Even an athlete like James will probably leave high school as embittered as the rest of us did.
Chris Ricketts is a senior majoring in English.