LeBron James became the all-time highest scorer in NBA history Tuesday night, surpassing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record.
They are both amazing athletes, bright, dedicated men who are icons in the African-American community.
In Sunday’s Super Bowl, both star quarterbacks, Patrick Maholms and Jalen Hurts, are Black. It is the first time that has happened in the championship game.
These are tremendous personal achievements for these four men, but I will pose the question that a white man perhaps has no right to ask. Has their greatness as athletes been a positive thing for the Black community in America?
I was thinking about this question yesterday and asking myself if anybody knows the greatest Jewish NBA player or pro football player. Maybe we know the greatest Japanese baseball player because he is playing at the moment (Shohei Ohtani).
Has the superiority and exaltation of LeBron James and Patrick Mahomes done anything substantive to elevate the lives of the millions of poorly educated, underclass Black people in America who idolize them? Athletic status and superiority and the veneration of star athletes may have actually stifled the rise of many blacks in this country.
The Graff-Pinkert plant and offices are a short walk from Hillcrest High school in Country Club Hills, IL. Hillcrest is virtually all African-American. It is not a highly ranked academic school in the Chicagoland area.
Hillcrest received a big boost in its funds recently when 1,100,000 square feet of new warehouse space was developed and leased out adjacent to the school. Hillcrest’s School Board opted to build a beautiful new gym with its fresh money. Another local high school, Homewood-Flossmoor, a few miles away, recently built its own new gym as well. Meanwhile, local test scores continue to go down.
My close friend Jerry Levine lived in the Homewood-Flossmoor area for 25 years while his kids grew up. He was a leader in raising the money for a beautiful apartment building near Hillcrest for homeless people needing a place to get back on their feet.
He recently established a scholarship at his alma mater, Purdue University, just for Black kids, to study engineering. He has managed to find only two kids who qualified in four years. Both are the children of middle class parents who emigrated to America from Africa.
Sadly, I think that role models like LeBron and Patrick Mahomes have not motivated the majority of Black males to excel academically. Hillcrest High School did not use its windfall to do the long hard task of somehow motivating students to eventually qualify for Jerry Levine’s scholarship at Purdue.
Is it LeBron’s fault? No. He is using his great gift as a basketball player with all of his vigor. But something is wrong with this picture. I do not think blaming America’s long-term racism is an answer. I do not think LeBron and Mahomes have lived their lives as victims.
I think that lowering academic standards and requirements reinforces a sense of victimhood. The upcoming Supreme Court decision about Harvard and University of North Carolina showing favoritism in admissions to Black students in order to achieve diversity and equality will be fascinating to watch.
Meanwhile, let us applaud LeBron, Mahomes, and Jalen Hurts, for their terrific accomplishments, yet still ask whether it is a great thing for the African-American community to build gyms and not students.
Question: Why are there so few Black people working in precision machining?