Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Jeremy Tyler

I love this Jeremy Tyler story that I first read here and then subsequently here, here, and here.

From a “what the hell?” standpoint, I love that Olden Polynice was a volunteer coach on Tyler’s high school team. O.P. was on some spectacularly mediocre Sonics teams in the late 80s and I’ll never forget him. I remember going to a game when I was 15, looking at the program, and thinking that there was something wrong with his face, and then feeling sorry for him. Not that how he looks had anything to do with his ability to play hoops, but it’s the singular thing that I remember about him. He was never a horrible player and was certainly better than the cavalcade of Rich King-like stiffs the Sonics subjected us to over the years.

On a national level, I’m guessing that O.P. was best known for one of two things:
  1. His arrest for impersonating a police officer
  2. Getting traded on draft day from Chicago to Seattle for Scottie Pippen

Number two is especially galling on a personal level. I would have liked a core of Gary Payton, Scottie Pippen, and Shawn Kemp a great deal. Um, that probably would have been a decent defensive squad. Of course, Pippen may never have blossomed into Pippen if not for Jordan, but it’s very likely that he would have thrived alongside The Glove and the Reign Man… sigh… anyway, it looks like O.P. was the key ingredient (aside from Jordan) in the Bulls Dynasty.

Getting back to O.P.’s influence on Tyler, I really enjoyed this part of the article:

"Still, Polynice disagrees with Tyler’s decision to go to Europe. He said Tyler was being 'pimped;' he would not elaborate."

So O.P. just called Tyler a whore, which is a very nice thing to say about someone. Also, O.P. was never known for his work ethic, so it’s always funny to me when a guy like that gets to have any influence whatsoever on young people. For instance, when O.P was finishing his third tour of duty with the Sonics in the lockout shortened ’98-’99 season (otherwise known as the “Vin Baker Fattening Project”) and shooting an ungodly 30% from the free throw line he was routinely seen practicing half court shots at practice instead of working on parts of his game that might help the team.

O.P. comedy aside, it’s a very interesting story. Brandon Jennings’s story was and is fascinating because he was bypassing Arizona (who really could have used him this year) to play for cash in Italy. I loved that he was doing it because it sounded like he wasn’t going to qualify to play college ball and he wanted to stay sharp, learn some skills, and get paid. I mean, why not? I loved the Josh Childress story as well because he was being held hostage by the NBA restricted free agent rules and decided to exercise his options, as a free man in society, to do what he pleased, and get paid more for doing it. Good for him.

Now here comes young Jeremy Tyler and his decision to go to Europe and bypass his senior year in high school along the way. Every time I hear about a kid who leaves high school early (like the football players to enroll for the spring semester at Universities to take part in spring practices), I can’t help but think, “why would you want to leave high school early? I had fun in high school, especially my senior year.” Then I snap back to reality and realize that their lives and my life as a high schooler are slightly different. They’re going to be playing big time sports in college or the pros and I was going to run track in the spring and miss going to the state meet because I wasn’t good enough. I guess that’s different.

From what I understand, Tyler is going to leave school, but take online courses or be homeschooled, so he’ll still get his high school diploma. So what’s the big deal? Doesn’t this happen all of the time but we just don’t know about it or don’t care? Don’t child actors do this all of the time? The SI article pointed to entertainers who leave school early and finish elsewhere. The ESPN article talked about tennis and golf players who do this with regularity. I don’t get what the big deal is. Why the hand-wringing? Why the concern?

ESPN’s Doug Gottlieb, arguing that Tyler’s decision to go abroad said the following:

"If it is acceptable for Tyler to leave high school after his junior year to play professionally, when does it not become OK to leave? Tyler is setting a dangerous precedent by making this move. What about a sophomore or a freshman making a similar decision? Why even have high school at all?"

A few things here:

  1. I’m not sure who needs to “accept” that Tyler could leave high school. It’s of no one’s concern but his and maybe his parents. It’s not a question of it being acceptable or “OK” for him to do this. He, or anyone else, can do this whenever the hell he feels like it.
  2. This “dangerous” precedent-setting decision that Tyler is making is, again, of no one’s concern but his. Does he have some sort of obligation to anyone else but himself? Is he supposed to “think of the children”? If he wants to do this, then he should do this. If it affects someone else’s decision down the line, is that really on him? And if it does, does it matter?
  3. Gottlieb asks, “Why even have high school at all?” I have the same question myself and am planning on writing about this at a later date. If these guys want to pursue their dreams of playing basketball and who also don’t care about school (I’m making assumptions here, but by and large if a guy leaves after one year in college or, previously, skipped college altogether, then they aren’t very interested in school… I’m just sayin’) then why should they go to school?

Aside from the obvious ethnocentric (scared of the European sports system) and racist stuff at work here (again, no worries about tennis/golf academies, entertainers, or foreign athletes who do this same thing) there is another element that doesn’t get mentioned and that’s the nationwide high school graduation rates for African Americans hovers around the mid 50% range every year. From what we know, Tyler is going to graduate from high school. What about the millions of kids who do not graduate from high school and who are not immensely talented basketball players? Where is the outcry about the education of these kids? Kids drop out of school at alarming rates and those that do earn far less than their cohorts that do earn their diplomas. Tyler is leaving high school, but plans on graduating, and is getting a head start on a potentially lucrative career.

People lament that kids are lazy and don’t take advantage of the opportunities that are provided to them. We get upset when someone doesn’t maximize his potential and make use of his talents. Well, Tyler’s talent is in basketball. He’s making a professional decision to do what he thinks is best for him.

Is it sketchy that Sonny Vaccaro is involved? Sure. But how is this any less seedy than college programs hiring a big-time recruit’s AAU coach or someone affiliated with that player with the hope that doing so will land them that recruit.

I mean, please. Stop with the goddamn hypocrisy already. Whether we agree or disagree with his decision is of no consequence. The teeth gnashing is insincere.

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