Lebron James’ world’s most prominent male athlete

Ever since he burst into the national spotlight as a high school star playing for St. Vincent’s in Cleveland, Lebron James has been simultaneously the epitome of the 21st century Black pro athlete and a lightning rod for criticism. Now in his early 30s, he’s unquestionably the NBA’s biggest star, though some would also deem him its most polarizing figure. But James’ exploits are certainly the stuff of legend. He’s won four Most Valuable Player Awards, been on two championship teams (two time Finals MVP) and is a multiple All-League, All-Star, All-Defensive staple. The detractors who cite his four losses in championship series often neglect to point out that in most cases his team wasn’t the superior one, and fact that in several defeats he was easily the best player on either club. Still, it can legitimately be argued that Lebron James’ importance aside from basketball far transcends his court achievements. Indeed it would be hard (though there are some folks out there willing to try) not to applaud the image James has off the court, and the many things he’s done to maintain ties with both the core Black communities of Akron and Cleveland, as well as the larger African-American nation. First, James has maintained ties his entire professional career with childhood friends, and his representation is solidly Black rather than a large white multi-national company. He’s married to his high school sweetheart. As upsetting as his decision was to leave his native Cleveland for four years to play in Miami, the return is responsible for two more years of constant sellouts in downtown Cleveland. His presence has...

New NCAA rules address fundamental concerns, contradictions

There’s always been a fundamental disconnect between the National Football League, National Basketball Association and the NCAA. The primary problem has been and remains that while the so-called power conferences function as de facto minor leagues for the NFL and NBA, that has never really been what they were designed to do. Ideally, college sports were created to provide extra-curricular activities for students. For the vast majority of its participants that remains the reality. But for the one percent gifted enough to make it to the pros, things are quite different. This select group is being groomed to ultimately be the best in their profession. But that goal may or may not coincide with the objectives of a college football or basketball coach, and it is definitely not part of the overall mission of an educational institution except in the broadest sense of defining the college experience. Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League have their own farm systems that exist solely to develop talent. But NCAA athletes are supposed to be students, and their education is deemed their primary goal. Framed against that is the fact college coaches are judged on wins and losses, and the top schools earn millions of dollars based on how well they perform in various conferences, and ultimately the college football playoffs and NCAA basketball tournament. This is a situation with no easy answer. While there have been and continue to be cases of schools exploiting its athletes (see the recent academic scandal at North Carolina for one prime example) the vast majority of schools take both their academic and athletic missions...

MONEY TALKS AND COACHES WALK!

The departure of Wisconsin Defensive Coordinator Dave Aranda speaks volumes about the current state of college football.   It seemed like just hours after the Badgers had played maybe their best game of the season, defeating favored USC in the Holiday Bowl, 23-21, it was announced that Aranda was leaving to become Defensive Coordinator at LSU. During three seasons at Wisconsin, under Aranda’s leadership, the Badgers had one of the best defenses in the country. So it was not surprising Aranda would be on the national coaching radar.   Some things were surprising, though. Aranda did not leave Wisconsin to become a head coach, but rather made a somewhat sideway move to be a DC at an SEC school.   And something that may have best explained Aranda’s move: His new annual salary will be a reported $1.3 million and be basically guaranteed for three years. That compares to $520,000/year he apparently was making at Wisconsin. The $1.3 million will probably be more money than many Division 1 head coaches are making – and a salary Wisconsin would be either unwilling or unable to match.   It also highlights the unfairness that now exists among college coaches and college athletes. If one of the Badger players had announced he was transferring to LSU he would have had to sit out the upcoming season. Not only does a coach not have to sit out a year, but he gets a huge raise to leave his former team.   Just in case anyone still wonders why college athletes are making more demands….     By John...