Jewish World Review Feb. 7, 2003 / 5 Adar I, 5763

Leonard Pitts, Jr.

Leonard Pitts, Jr.
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
MUGGER
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

'The One' for the 'Get-Yours' generation

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | So for now, at least, it looks as if LeBron James is out of trouble.

Of course, trouble is a relative term. There's scant reason to weep for an 18-year-old who is expected, after his high school graduation, to sign a multimillion dollar contract to play basketball and a similarly lucrative deal to endorse athletic shoes.

Nevertheless, trouble of a sort did enter the young man's life recently. He accepted two athletic jerseys with a retail value of $845 in exchange for posing for an autographed picture. In so doing, James was found to have violated the prime directive of the Ohio High School Athletic Association: Thou shalt not "capitalize" on thy athletic fame.

So the OHSAA stripped the kid of his amateur status, banning him from playing with the Fighting Irish of St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron. Wednesday, a judge issued a temporary restraining order that cuts the ban to a two-game suspension.

That sounds fair to me; the OHSAA punishment was too harsh. It was not, however, unmerited. To the contrary, OHSAA offered a necessary coat-tug, a reality check for James and other children of the materialism-as-virtue era.

There is, I suppose, a fair chance you've never heard of LeBron James, especially if you're not a basketball fan. Let's just say he's been anointed the Next Big Thing - "The Chosen One," as Sports Illustrated put it in a cover story. James' athleticism and skill have elicited comparisons with Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady and the mighty Jordan himself. He is projected to be the No. 1 pick in the next NBA draft.

Not surprisingly, his retinue has risen with his stock and he has been busy acquiring all the accoutrements of fame. He has a logo. He has a security detail. ESPN televises his games. Ticket sellers charge a premium. Shoemakers are anxiously currying his favor. And then, there's the Hummer.

Fifty-thousand-dollar vehicle. And that's before it was reportedly equipped with three televisions and a Playstation. James raised OHSAA's ire when he began tooling around in the thing shortly after his 18th birthday. But he was able to skirt any suggestion of impropriety when it was revealed that the vehicle was a gift from his mother, who had the loan papers to prove it.

Never mind that, according to the Sports Illustrated profile, Gloria James gave birth at 16 and reared her son in a series of dangerous neighborhoods. Never mind that nothing in that biography seems to suggest an ability to qualify for such a loan.

It's not hard to guess what collateral secures this credit. Mama's about to get paid. It's all about the Benjamins, is it not? All about the money.

Because her son is The Man. He's The Golden Child. He's the Ticket Out. And everybody's already positioning themselves on his coattails.

So one day, the kid walks into a sports paraphernalia store and they tell him his money is no good there. He can have whatever he wants in exchange for his autograph. How many 18-year-olds do you know who would have said no?

That's the point. He's 18. Unfortunately, he's 18 in the bling-bling generation, the get-yours generation, the generation that believes a person's worth can be quantified by a price tag or a brand name. Moreover, he's an 18-year-old surrounded by adults who evidently never told him differently, adults who did not protect him from his own youthful excess, adults busy enriching themselves or planning to enrich themselves off his ability to put a ball into a net.

There is something tawdry and sad in the very gaudiness of their expectations. And in their failure to ground and secure the precocious teenager in their care. To give him something more substantial than a ridiculous SUV.

The day after he leaves high school, he will become richer than everybody you know, combined. And I feel sorry for him.

You see, it is not, in fact, all about the Benjamins. But how can we blame LeBron James for not knowing?

Apparently, nobody else did.

Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.


Comment on JWR contributor Leonard Pitts, Jr.'s column by clicking here.

02/04/03: Depressing news from TV nation
01/31/03: Let's hear it for women with meat on their bones
01/21/03: Illinois governor may have saved us from ourselves
01/14/03: We must pay close attention as corners are cut and rights abridged in our names
01/10/03: This mother wouldn't let us ignore grisly ugliness of racism
12/17/02: Michael Jackson's disappearing act
12/06/02: After affirmative action, what next?
12/03/02: We deserve a break today from McDonald's lawsuits
11/19/02: On question of Megan's Law, information trumps other concerns
11/12/02: Winona, just say, 'I'm sorry'
11/08/02: Your local police, brought to you by Joe's Bar and Grill
11/05/02: A father, a son and an essay
10/29/02: Things like this don't happen
10/22/02: Real monsters look just like women and men
10/18/02: Snoop's new tune rings hollow
10/15/02: A reminder of life's random cruelty
10/08/02: He toils in the name of change because he can't just stand by
10/01/02: Sharpton, crossing swords with the white corporate dragon, needs to learn what the civil rights movement really was about
09/25/02: A skewed sense of compassion
09/18/02: On death and a pop-culture mindset
09/10/02: Inconvenience me, PLEASE!
09/06/02: Latest CBS joke isn't funny
09/03/02: A rewarding life as a working stiff
08/30/02: We infants in men's clothing
08/27/02: Sept. 11 - How much is too much?
08/23/02: Cut it out already, media!
08/20/02: Brace yourself for attacks of the stealth ads
08/16/02: Russia, please, pretty please let the rocker hitch a ride into space
08/12/02: Racial 'colorblindness' is silly
07/30/02: Oh, to be famous
07/19/02: In Pop-Music Thriller, Jacko Takes on Sony
07/09/02: The password is 'frustration'
06/25/02: My Head And Heart Are At Odds - I Can't Watch Video Of Pearl's Beheading
06/21/02: Your kid's going to pay for cheating --- eventually
06/18/02: Stuffy 'correctness' robs races of give and take
06/07/02: A gift of the Masai
06/04/02: Now what? Use your 9/11 pain to combat complacency
05/24/02: Has your life changed since 9/11?
05/19/02: New world disorder is nothing to smile about
05/14/02: White men can jump, so why do black kids come up short in the classroom?
05/03/02: Catholic Church should be ashamed for blaming abuse victims
04/19/02: A reminder of how small the world has become
04/16/02: 100 death-penalty mistakes and counting
04/12/02: Until all the bad guys wear black hats
04/10/02: Connecting with history with hope for future
04/08/02: Just me and the boys: A black father's road trip
03/26/02: It's time to give up fighting the good fight and join the masses
03/22/02: It's not the art, it's the artist who's troubling
03/19/02: Don't ask, don't tell when it comes to police work
03/15/02: Do we have an inalienable right to TV?
03/12/02: What will we learn about ourselves as war toll grows?
03/08/02: Marriage madness --- oh, please!
03/05/02: A risk free life
03/01/02: Pentagon's idea of lying to media was breathtaking' in its stupidity
02/16/02: Will the Afghans forgive the U.S. for the beating of innocents?
02/15/02: In search of manhood, some make a fatal decision
02/08/02: Time for blacks to give the same respect they demand
02/05/02: A question of character and "unlawful combatants"
01/31/02: There's only so much a parent can influence a child
01/29/02: Mike Tyson is incapable of embarrassment
01/25/02: Acts of patriotism or acts of desecration?
01/18/02: Waiting for tears in the rain at Ground Zero
01/15/02: A little cultural respect works both ways
01/11/02: Can blacks be racist?
01/07/02: What price for the priceless?
12/21/01: An intriguing study on race
12/18/01: To err is me
12/14/01: Admit it, folks, If you've ever been 16, you can probably relate to Walker
12/11/01: Blacks-on-blacks poll is a healthy project
12/07/01: The best defense against government excesses
12/05/01: Better hoist caution flag
12/03/01: Martin Luther Ka-CHING!
11/27/01: Beauty reflects an ugly truth
11/22/01: Another reason to be thankful
11/19/01: If only they knew our names
11/12/01: Watching a 'dying' man live
08/01/01: Should a man be put in jail for what he's thinking?
07/27/01: It's your responsibility to invade their privacy
07/20/01: Is optimism for fools?
07/17/01: Everybody should have a white man

© 2002, The Miami Herald