Thursday, March 17, 2011

Character, not swagger

With all the controversy over HBO's special on Michigan's Fab Five and Jalen Rose's insulting comments about how much he hated Duke back when he was a player, the contrast between Rose's insults of Duke's black players and this response from Grant Hill demonstrates tells us something about true character. Jalen Rose said that he looked at Duke's black players as "Uncle Toms." Later he tried to clean it up by saying that he was trying to characterize the type of students that Duke recruited and how he felt about it as an 18-year-old.
“Well, certain schools recruit a typical kind of player whether the world admits it or not. And Duke is one of those schools,” he said. “They recruit black players from polished families, accomplished families. And that’s fine. That’s okay. But when you’re an inner-city kid playing in a public school league, you know that certain schools aren’t going to recruit you. That’s one. And I’m okay with it. That’s how I felt as an 18-year-old kid.”
Tweeting some sort of walkback from his comments won't change the impact of what he said on camera; he had an opportunity as the executive producer of the documentary to have had those words taken out. Instead that was the section of the documentary used in the promos for the show. He knew how inflammatory it was to call the Duke black players Uncle Toms. It wasn't an accident that he produced a documentary that included those comments. That is how he felt then and must be part of how he feels now for him to have put that out there.His teammate Jimmy King has added that he felt that, growing up, he couldn't respect Duke and regarded the black players who went there as Uncle Toms or sellouts because they went to a mostly white school. He is still not backing down from his comments. He says that Duke would now recruit his children. I guess he thinks his kids are Uncle Toms.

Chris Webber has chimed in on his blog with a picture from the novel, Uncle Tom, just in case you didn't get the point.

Jason Whitlock
isn't taking any of this nonsense.
The Fab Five clearly believe Coach K and Duke didn’t and don’t recruit inner-city black kids, and they believe race/racism/elitism are the driving forces behind the philosophy.

Let’s go back to the Fab Five era and Duke’s philosophy then. Coach K recruited kids who had every intention of staying in school for four years. He recruited kids who had a good chance of competing academically at Duke and could meet the standardized test score qualifications for entrance.

The Fab Five stated it was their intention to win a national championship and turn pro as a group after their sophomore season. Webber, who was recruited by Duke, left Michigan after two years. Rose and Howard left as juniors. Impoverished inner-city kids have good reason to turn pro early. I’m not knocking Webber, Howard and Rose for their decisions. They didn’t fit the Duke profile at the time.

Furthermore, unlike Steve Fisher at the time, Coach K did more than roll the ball on the court. He coached.

During the three-year run of the Fab Five (one season without Webber), Duke beat Michigan all four times the schools met while winning two ACC titles and one NCAA title. During the same span, Michigan won zero conference or national titles. In addition, Webber’s interactions with booster Ed Martin put the program on probation and caused Michigan to forfeit all its games.

I think Coach K recruited and recruits the right kids for Duke.

It’s ridiculous for Webber to insinuate that Coach K feared the Fab Five were “thugs and killers.”

Coach K probably thought the same thing I thought watching the Fab Five play: They’re immature, arrogant, interested in playing for a coach they could ignore and incapable of putting together the consistent focus and effort necessary to win a conference championship.
Exactly right. Oh, and he didn't want the type of player who took money from a booster either.

But the classiest takedown is the reply that Grant Hill published in the New York Times. Hill isn't going to apologize for coming from a two-parent family who stressed character and education.
I am beyond fortunate to have two parents who are still working well into their 60s. They received great educations and use them every day. My parents taught me a personal ethic I try to live by and pass on to my children.

I come from a strong legacy of black Americans. My namesake, Henry Hill, my father’s father, was a day laborer in Baltimore. He could not read or write until he was taught to do so by my grandmother. His first present to my dad was a set of encyclopedias, which I now have. He wanted his only child, my father, to have a good education, so he made numerous sacrifices to see that he got an education, including attending Yale.

This is part of our great tradition as black Americans. We aspire for the best or better for our children and work hard to make that happen for them. Jalen’s mother is part of our great black tradition and made the same sacrifices for him.
And Grant Hill isn't going to let them get away with casting aspersions on his teammates and other Duke players.
It is insulting and ignorant to suggest that men like Johnny Dawkins (coach at Stanford), Tommy Amaker (coach at Harvard), Billy King (general manager of the Nets), Tony Lang (coach of the Mitsubishi Diamond Dolphins in Japan), Thomas Hill (small-business owner in Texas), Jeff Capel (former coach at Oklahoma and Virginia Commonwealth), Kenny Blakeney (assistant coach at Harvard), Jay Williams (ESPN analyst), Shane Battier (Memphis Grizzlies) and Chris Duhon (Orlando Magic) ever sold out their race.

To hint that those who grew up in a household with a mother and father are somehow less black than those who did not is beyond ridiculous. All of us are extremely proud of the current Duke team, especially Nolan Smith. He was raised by his mother, plays in memory of his late father and carries himself with the pride and confidence that they instilled in him.
And in the most gentlemanly manner possible, he totally quashes the Fab Five who are still whining about Duke and the black players who went there.
I caution my fabulous five friends to avoid stereotyping me and others they do not know in much the same way so many people stereotyped them back then for their appearance and swagger. I wish for you the restoration of the bond that made you friends, brothers and icons.

I am proud of my family. I am proud of my Duke championships and all my Duke teammates. And, I am proud I never lost a game against the Fab Five.
Take that!

And that is why Grant Hill is one of the most admired professional athletes out there. It is not because of who his parents are or where he went to school. It is because of the character he has demonstrated throughout his career through injuries and comebacks. That is why he is the only player to have been voted by his peers as the winner of the NBA Sportsmanship Award not once, not twice, but three times. None of the Fab Five seem to have made that list.

Character counts. That's not a white thing or an Uncle Tom thing. So Jalen Rose and his buddies need to get over themselves and reflect a bit on why their pride today has to be in their swagger instead of their championships.