Kobe Bryant a “Bull.” LeBron James a “Bear.”
No, I’m not talking about the stock market. But with another successful CIAA tournament behind us, I find myself playing a curious game of “What If.”
What if Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers had enrolled at Johnson C. Smith University and become a Golden Bull? What if James of the Cleveland Cavaliers had gone to Shaw University and been a Bear?
Sounds far fetched? That’s exactly the problem.
While many of us say we love and support our Historically Black Colleges and Universities, many of us also continue to hand off our athletically gifted children to college coaches who don’t share their skin color or understand their values and customs.
I recently asked some friends what they thought of this.
“The coaching staffs at white universities are superior,” said one. To this I rebutted: Coach Clarence "Big House" Gaines of Winston-Salem State University is a legend. He died April 2005 with 828 career wins and is mentioned with the likes of Adolph Rupp, John Wooden, Dean Smith and Bobby Knight.
Another mentioned “national exposure.” I countered that every NBA team has a scout responsible for finding top talent wherever it plays. They found Yao Ming in China, Tony Parker in France and Pau Gasol in Greece. All now play in the NBA.
Those same scouts should have no problem finding exceptional players in Raleigh, on the campus of Shaw, or at St. Augustine’s College in Florida.
ESPN recently flew its lead basketball analyst, Dick Vitale, and its entire prime-time crew to tiny Davidson. When Vitale was asked what brought him there, he stated, “to witness the phenomenal talent of Stephen Curry.”
Davidson College has 1,700 students. Compare that with the nearly 5,000 who attend Virginia State University or the more than 6,000 enrolled at Fayetteville State University.
Finally, a friend said the level of competition is greater in major white conferences. This is true. But neither Bryant nor James nor Kevin Garnett played against top talent before entering the NBA draft. All were plucked straight from high school.
The HBCUs we reject to nurture our best athletes are the same schools that train and educate a disproportionate percentage of our doctors, dentists, lawyers, teachers and preachers.
To the CIAA faculty and alums I say, “Thank you.” Continue to educate and graduate our best and brightest. The survival of our culture depends on you.
Victor Earl lives in Charlotte.