- Voice of EaglesRichard Deitsch | December 03, 2001
- Blaine LacherChristian Stone | April 11, 1994
- MAKE WAY FOR THE SULTAN OF SWIPESRon Fimrite | August 22, 1977
"I was recruited from one high school to another. I was at Lindblom Technical. A coach from Dunbar heard about me. He said, 'Hey, you don't need to be there. You need to be here.' I never had a problem with books. I was lucky. I'm above average with that student-type thing. But you can't be a superstar athlete and not be affected.
"I went to this school where they graded you every 10 weeks. At the end of 10 weeks I had a B in this English class, but the teacher died. For the next 10 weeks they gave us a series of substitutes. I decided not to go. At the midterm, in order to be eligible, I had to be passing all my subjects. The last substitute had only been in the class a couple of weeks, but he wanted to fail me, give me an F, because I hadn't been there. Half the teachers in the school went around to explain to him that he couldn't do that. I got my grade and everything was cool.
"Somebody says, 'Hey, man, that was bad for them to do,' and in a way it was. Some type persons would've relied on that all the way, but I say to myself, 'Hey, you were lucky that time,' you know? If this teacher had a little more guts, he wouldn't have passed me, and that would have been better in the long run. But it's hard to make a guy ineligible if he's packing your gym.
"The teachers see this. A guy looks at an athlete and says, 'Well, he's an athlete, he's not going to be into books.' The stigma starts there. It's like they're embedding the seeds. You don't have to 'ask' for anything. You get it. Only time you see a counselor is if you're in trouble. Your counselor is the coach, understand what I'm saying? This is what people refuse to deal with. An athlete is not a part of the student population.
"I graduated in the top half of my class. I had the second-highest SAT score at Dunbar and was No. 1 in the ACT. And those tests are designed for white middle-class and upper-class dudes. But I knew where the future was. At Dunbar I was 'Billy the Kid.' I wore the special uniform number of the star. My brother had the number when he started. Before him, Kendall Mayfield, drafted by the Knicks. Marvin Stuart, drafted by the 76ers.
"I'm going to tell you the prime thing, what this is all about. I came from a very humble background. I had friends 13-14 years old involved in strong-arm robberies. I couldn't do that. I knew the difference between right and wrong. I thought about the afterwards—about getting caught, about going to jail.
"But basketball let me know I could get anything I wanted, as long as the eligibility held out. Hey, man, I got paid. In high school. I got free lunches, clothes. I went to the prom in a limo. I had money.
"We practiced every day of the year. When you practice that much, it makes whatever you're practicing the most important thing in your life. How can a guy tell you it's not if you're out there practicing on Thanksgiving Day? Then when you get to college, you don't go home for Christmas. You're at school practicing on Christmas Day. You're not a regular student, you're not a regular person.
"In high school I had thought of being an engineer. Scored off the board on the tests. But when you become a talent, the last thing the coach wants to hear is, 'Hey, Coach, I can't make it to practice today because I got to go to the lab and catch up on my engineering.'
"They don't want to hear that. Coaches steer you away from stuff that will tax your mind. They don't give a damn if you're brilliant as hell, they want you in P.E.—or anything where they have some control or input.