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Don’t believe the hype: high school stars are not destroying NBA

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By LELAND STEIN III

In George Orwell’s classic novel “Animal Farm,” he uses the literary element of allegory to reveal truths about humanity.

The main thematic message in Orwell’s narrative is that people will twist and distort the truth to ensure personal gain. He also brings to life the methods some leaders use to spew propaganda to persuade and condition the minds of the populace so the unknowing will walk lock step to the beat of the leadership’s agenda.

In other words, Orwell cajoles all not to believe the hype!

All the dangers he satirically poked fun at are still being played throughout the world.

As a youth I was conditioned!

I rooted for John Wayne to kill all those savage Indians, no matter they were fighting for their land. I read my history books and believed that no minorities had any part in the intellectual, engineering and structural formation of this country. All those wonderful war movies convinced me that African Americans did not fight in any of this country’s wars.

If you listen to most of today’s pundits, they would have you believe that too many football and basketball players, who just so happen to be predominately African-American and in the NBA, are uneducated and do not value education.

Of course, I now know better

No matter that gymnastics, tennis, baseball, hockey, ice skating, and other sports require the youth to leave home to train or start major competition at ages as early as 12-years-old, but when the NBA recently took eight high school players among the first 20 picks in the 2004 draft, many had a field day beating up the league and the young players.

Where is the outcry about immaturity and a lack of a college education for those other athletes? It seems un-American that at 18 it’s okay to put a gun in one’s hand, but it’s an outrage to put a professional football or basketball in that same person’s hand.

The fact of the matter is, college football and basketball are the major money-generating sports for the NCAA. Why would the multitude of writers, announcers and NCAA administrators ever be willing give up their gravy train?

The propaganda will make you believe the sky is falling and the league is in trouble.

It’s just the opposite. The league had its highest collective regular season attendance in many years. The 2004 NBA Playoffs and Finals also experienced recent highs in television ratings.

In spite of Dick Vitale’s ranting about all the high schoolers getting drafted before his ACC and Big Ten players, I rather enjoyed seeing the young guys living the American dream. And isn’t that what it is?

When athletes work hard and become proficient enough to warrant a professional team drafting them, it’s all to the good.

Eight young men out of more than 200 million Americans were good enough to be drafted by NBA teams. That does not sound to me like the sky is falling and the NBA is doomed.

Dwight Howard, at 6-foot-10, 240 pounds became the third high school player in four years to be drafted No. 1 overall – Kwame Brown (2001) and LeBron James (2003) preceded him.

Also taken in the first round were 6’7” Shaun Livingston (Clippers, 4th), 7’0” Robert Swift (Seattle, 12th), 6’0” Sebastian Telfair (Portland, 13th), 6’10” Al Jefferson (Boston, 15th), 6’9” Josh Smith (Atlanta, 17th), 6’6” J.R. Smith (New Orleans, 18th) and 6’7” Dorell Wright (Miami, 19th). In 2003, James was the only high schooler taken in the first 20 picks.

No matter how the negative prognosticators slice it and dice it, Americans should be able to pursue their dreams, free to fail or succeed.

Who can deny that Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Jermaine O’Neal, Kevin Garnett, and Amare Stoudemire — all who came directly out of high school — were wise investments?

There’s talk by NBA leadership that they would like to see the age limit moved to 20.

It is so hypocritical; if young people can die in the military at 18 for this country, then surely they should be able to play football or basketball for themselves at 18 too.

Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com

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