basketball. It is important for people to understand that because, as much as I
believe in it, I have to leave it now. There is a sickness there. It is in
basketball, and it is in sports in general.
This isn't an
easy thing to say, and many people won't agree. Maybe they will say that I'm
just an embittered and jealous man. But they will be wrong. There is disease
anywhere when cheating and deceit are ignored. In sports today, they are often
applauded. Integrity is disappearing. Contracts mean nothing; not between owner
and player, or owner and fan. Players jump teams. Teams jump cities. And all
the while the money flows as from a cornucopia.
To me it is
reprehensible that a college player like Jim Chones should be encouraged to
ignore his commitments to his teammates with less than half a season to go in
order to sign a pro contract, just as it is wrong that Charlie Scott and Jim
McDaniels, who both jumped from the ABA to the NBA last season, should ignore
their professional commitments. The only difference between the vagrant pros
and collegians is that the pros have business contracts while the collegians do
not. Universities cling tenaciously to the opinion that they are not in the
same marketplace for athletic bodies, but they are.
There was a time,
and it was not so long ago, when things such as honor and loyalty were virtues
in sport, and not objects of ridicule. It was a time when athletes drew
pleasure and satisfaction from the essence of competition, not just from their
paychecks. But somehow, with the introduction of big business, the concept of
sports in this country has changed.
psyche has invaded basketball and has made the players nothing but businessmen
spurred by the profit motive. In some cases players make more money with their
outside financial activities than they do on the court. Their sport becomes a
mere showcase to keep them before the public, like an actor's guest appearance
on a television talk show. The game no longer has its roots sunk into
idealistic bedrock. It's just business: nine to five. And that's very sad,
because to me sports always have been a sort of quixotic-type existence.
I have a real
hang-up about big corporation spider webs. It bothers me when I see guys
stepping on each other to achieve their financial goals. And now these people,
wearing big boots, are in sports, manipulating them the way some people
manipulate the stock market or the price of gold.
I'm going to
leave all that. Maybe someday I'll be able to return. I hope so. But the way
things are now, I have to get out. I've taken my wife, Joanne, and the three
children and I've been accepted into the University of Iowa's Graduate Writer's
Workshop. I've had a book of poetry published, some of it about basketball.
I've saved a little money and I intend to write. Much of my thinking is
socialistic. I just don't care about big money. I could live a life similar to
the athlete in Russia, with a steady job, and I'd be provided for and I'd know
my family wouldn't starve and I'd be doing the thing that I love to do: play
sports. Maybe that sounds very naive, very emotional, but it's my way of
People in the
business world can't understand me, but that is only another symptom of the
problem. Money has become so much of a ceramic god to them that they think,
you're demented to walk away from a job that pays a good salary. I've been
called a big hippie. I'm big, but I'm not going to be a hippie. I'm a product
of the 1950s and I'll never be able to change. For instance, I'll never be able
to alter my concept of loyalty. To me, loyalty is important; loyalty to the
team, and teamwork, means an awful lot to me. I'm not an individualist in that
I was born in
Harbin, China 33 years ago. My parents were refugees from Russia who fled when
the Communists took over in 1917. My father was an officer in the White Russian
Army and my grandfather was a member of the Senate, and my mother was from an
aristocratic family. I've learned through them and my childhood that money is
meaningless. At one time my parents were part of the upper class in Russia. A
few years later, after much of my family ended up in Japan, we were interned in
a concentration camp for the duration of World War II. Money was of no value.
People died there, rich and poor alike.
When our family
emigrated to America in 1947, we settled in San Francisco and lived on the edge
of the Fillmore Street ghetto. We were very poor. My father was a tanner. And
finally he became a dental technician.