To go pro, or not to go pro. That, of late, has been the heated question. And who better to answer the bell for that one and make a monumental decision than some old guy from a major medical school?
OK, so Mike Krzyzewski (no, there’s not a correct pronounciation for that name) — known as Coach “K” to the masses — isn’t exactly your run-of-the-mill old guy.
He proved that by making a statement — turning down $40 million to coach the Lakers and opting instead to stay at storied college ball powerhouse Duke — that should be lauded for myriad reasons; Mostly, though, because he was right: college is better than the pros.
It’s the choice between the big time and the experience of a lifetime.
What will cling to the walls of an athlete’s memory bank when it’s all said and done? Will it be those endless visits to buffet-laden pro locker rooms, requesting electric outlets for their pre-game warm-up by way of leather massage chair and Playstation?
For a growing number of alumni-less athletes, vapid memories like the aforementioned one will be repeated endlessly in retrospect when they mentally leaf through mental snapshots of their careers.
Yes, they will have stacks of cash to console them. But, those Benjamins will never buy the chance to tap the “Play like a champion today” sign before basking in the aura of golden helmets as one runs out from underneath “Touchdown Jesus” and on to the Notre Dame football field. Or, in Coach K’s case, counting cash will never harness the same power as running onto the glistening wood court amidst 9,000 “Cameron Crazies” hopping and hollering for the duration of the contest.
More and more kids each year — up until the Maurice Clarett saga, the exodus had mostly victimized basketball — are attempting and succeeding in leaping over the unparalleled experience of college sports, opting for the immediate cold hard benefits of a pro contract.
This practice has historically stolen all the top talent from collegiate baseball and hockey, but basketball has been the modern culprit victimized by this practice. And football could be next.
It should be a moot point, considering college basketball and college football are both more exhilarating sports to follow than their egotistically overblown and anticlimactic pro counterparts anyway.
But this is what happens when folks such as Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic number one pick) make the jump, backing it up with comments from himself and his father stating that Howard probably couldn’t gain anything from going to college.
It’s moronic mindsets such as these, fueled by lots of dollars of course, that are costing these players the unmatched college experience on and off the field. Think Kobe Bryant got it right? Nope.
Bryant’s first wish as new king of one of the most powerful pro franchises on the planet was to be mentored by a Mr. College, Coach K.
He reached out to the college years he lost, ultimately realizing that even he, the biggest and most talented star in his sport, could not get them back.
The thing many — not Kobe, not Dwight Howard, not Maurice Clarrett — don’t realize is that the college game is just as important, if not more than, the pros.
And if it takes an old guy from a Blue Devil of a medical school to make people realize it, so be it.