Saturday, April 25, 2009
Now anyone who knows me knows that I am totally against all of these not-ready-for-prime-time college basketball players leaving school early and joining the NBA. Most of these kids simply can't cut it or just want to join the NBA because they have watched too many LeBron James highlights and think the league is a right. It's not, it's a privilege. You have to be able to play, work hard without much supervision and learn the NBA game without getting caught up with the women, nightlife and family obligations. It's not easy, but if you are going to leave early and stymie your growth for the sake of an early paycheck, do it like Lorenzen Wright.
Now if I told you that Lorenzen Wright had made nearly $54 million in his career, would you believe me? You should because it's true. A player who has averaged double figured in scoring three times in 13 seasons is financially set for life. The key to the NBA is longevity and hanging around for that second and third contracts and that's what these youngsters don't understand. Just ask Patrick O'Bryant or Mouhamed Sene or Rashad McCants or Chris Taft. They made absurd decisions to leave college -- or international play in Sene's case -- for the NBA and they are either out of the league or barely hanging on. None of these guys are 25. Wright is still collecting a check at 33 for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Why? Because he's a center, bigs last longer in the league and he learned how to do one thing well -- rebound.
The question for these youngsters is whether you want the quick check that the rookie contract will provide or do you want to be set for life? Wright left Memphis as a sophomore, perhaps a year too early, but he became a fierce rebounder and team player and realized he was never going to be a superstar, a rare example of humility amongst a professional athlete. So perhaps instead of asking LeBron or Kobe about staying power, these early entries with delusions of grandeur should ask Lorenzen. If you are going to arrive early to the NBA, you might as well stay a while.