In the evening of Thursday June 25, 60 young basketball players will be initiated into the highly exclusive basketball fraternity known around the world as the National Basketball Association. Players and their families, friends and business associates will be celebrating.
So will the groupies, hangers on and leeches and whoever is determinted to make a quick buck or 15 minutes of fame off of those potential millionaires.
That's not to say that the players - when many inevitably mess up - will be without blame. In fact, with their impressionability and lack of control, they're ultimately responsible - and even more to blame - for their mistakes than the so-called cash money grubbers out in the market.
Take, for example, Dirk Nowitzki. Even the Great White Hope of our generation couldn't withstand the advances of the even greater Cristal Taylor, she of the fraudulent schemes and 1,001 aliases.
If Dirk Diggler's ultimate professional goal was to have a wildly successful NBA career and eventually win a title, Cristal's was to have a wild time with Dirk and eventually get her hands on some of his riches. If Cristal is indeed pregnant with his kid, as she has insisted, then she would've achieved her objective even better than Dirk has.
(UPDATE: According to prison medical records released to Dirk's attorney, Cristal is not pregnant).
Dirk, in the process, whether it was his intention or not, ended up selling his soul.
Let's not kid ourselves. Groupies and nuthangers are the least of the worries for the newly minted members of the NBA. The real enemy is within, and when the young draftees sign over their rights to an NBA team, what will result for most is a vicious cycle of broken dreams and emptiness.
Groupies : The Least of a Player's Worries
courtesy of Global Sports Fraternity
Basketball being a team game, it takes a much more complex combination of factors coming together to help a player succeed than in an individual sport like boxing. Not only must the player be good himself, but his set of skills must match his teammates' and his coach's system, in order for him to contribute. For that reason, it's infinitely more important in team sports for the franchise to have an unyielding vision of success.
Unfortunately, most NBA teams are mediocre to downright bad. And most young players will be joining these teams.
There's nothing more damaging to a young NBA player's career than being surrounded by coaching and managerial impotence. If a groupie approaches you, you can at least try to resist the temptation. If you manage to make some illegitimate babies, at least you can pay child support with the money you make.
But to an NBA player, his franchise is his life - and a club that can't offer life to its constituents could spell death to the baller's career.
I still follow the NBA Draft, but don't get into it like I used to. The reason is that much of it's ultimately nonsense. What matters in the end is the top-down vision of an owner, not how talented an individual player is.
This has applied and will continue to apply to anyone. Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Tim Duncan, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant were beneficiaries who sold their souls to the right buyers. Rather than living day-to-day, trying to score big game to secure their next big payday, these icons were provided enough by their clubs so that they could concentrate on becoming champions and ambassadors.
Most others weren't so lucky - and we'll see if fortune follows the talent of precocious youngsters like Blake Griffin, Ricky Rubio and Brandon Jennings.
For their own sake, I hope guys like Griffin, Rubio and Jennings turn out to be like Liu Kang, who was able to team up with two helpful protagonists, Sonya Blade and Johnny Cage, to avenge his brother's death and loss of soul to the evil Shang Tsung in the movie Mortal Kombat.
I want to see a great general manager or head coach implement his vision one element at a time, rather than see a run-of-the-miller watch over his back and impose his job insecurity on a young prospect. The latter is like building a new town without a development plan, and hoping the next new edifice will bring salvation to your city.
Because ultimately, the transaction of souls takes place on the streets, not in the churches.