The NBA is soooooo High School
Trust me, I see it every day.
Times have changed. We’re all so grown up now. A few months ago I was in junior high, now I’m in high school. Um… teaching, that is. It took me the duration of my time with the 7th and 8th graders to come up with my comparison piece on how teaching middle school is like coaching an NBA team. This time, the analogies and other basketball-related thoughts are so direct that I want to confront them right now. Basketball is very important in this world I’m in. Let’s get right down to it.
Perhaps you have heard about the state of education and this whole No Child Left Behind thing? Kids NEED to do well on tests. High-stakes testing is what we call it. Failure is not cool. And yet, those tests come at the end of the term or the year after so many hours of learning, talking, fun and games, laughter and tears, suspensions and pats on the backs. Basically, it’s like how the regular season is nice and relaxed and you can enjoy it, not much of a big deal except for those statement games or mega performances. The playoffs are a different animal.
We have been doing Regents prep and giving the kids exams to get them ready for next week. Oh man… the pressure. I hope there’s no Dirks in my class.
Okay, I’ll admit this has been a little bit on the boring side so far. Let me bring it back to the NBA world, which is the point of writing this here.
First there are your Chris Paul, LeBron, Wade, Dwight types. As players and students there’s really not much for a coach/teacher to say. I am in awe of their ability sometimes, but it is not a good idea to let them know that. For example, we had a class discussion about A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and one boy said something like “The tree is symbolic for feminism, a woman unafraid to stand out on her own amidst a difficult environment…” my mind was blown, Jerry! Blown!
Then there are the established superstars you can always count on to be great cause that’s what they’ve always done. Duncan, Vince, Yao, the Celtics guys, Dirk, Joe Johnson, you know guys who do enough to win or get their numbers. They have the explosive night here and there, but for the most part you know what they are and you can pretty much leave them alone too. I like to think of them as second term seniors. Let them be cause they’ve done so much already and they tend to be above silly mind games. I would throw Kobe and Shaq into this group too but those are unique personalities that just… I don’t want to talk about them anymore.
Now here we have the most exciting type of player/kid. The emergent superstar and God are they excited to prove it! Danny Granger, Bosh, Roy, Al Jefferson, Devin Harris. Not a perfect fit, but then why do I have to cram everyone into a prepackaged box! What is this, the public education system? These guys are right there with those top of the league forces of nature but just a little off. In school, I know them well. The key is to tricking Devin Harris into thinking he’s Deron Williams. Or “motivating”, yeah that sounds better.
You’ve got your hotshot youngsters. Durant, Mayo, Rose, Thornton, Horford, and so on. Ah, Freshmen. I deal with them at 8:05 A.M., and the youthful energy is nice but sometimes the things they don’t know… another teacher used the phrase “The proof is in the pudding” and one kid thought we were giving them pudding in class. This is why they need to carry the bags to the bus and be stuffed inside lockers.
The headcases with a lot of talent are the equivalent of High School sophomores. Seriously people, 10th grade? There is something very disturbing about the way the human brain is wired at that age. We need to evolve to get past this phase. Every JR Smith is a high school sophomore at heart. So confused.
This could go on. The kids who only show up once a week are T-Mac, the ones who you want to work with but make it really difficult are Steph (that guy!) and all of the trade-demanders. Iverson has become the 20 year old senior that you really wish would graduate (win the championship?) this year. But most of the names I have brought up are from a generation that’s moving on, and I’m focused on the future.
One of my favorite classes is advisory, which is where we don’t have to teach any content, but just talk with some kids about whatever they want, hopefully get them to think about their lives. It does not always go well. The other day this one kid was basically n-word this n-word that, I got a gun, so and so had a fight, throwing gang signs across the room, I’m doing this with that girl, I went to a dog fight and did this, blah blah blah, until he started ranting about basketball. I took hold of the conversation…
Now he respects me. And that is a great thing for both of us.
Can one of my comparing an NBA player to something else things that I perfected at SLAM over the years actually do some good for a young man who needs it? Well, this is what I am going to try:
He told me that two of his favorite players are Joe Johnson and Nate Robinson. This is going to lead to a talk about how Nate is great, has a amazing energy just like “you” do, but he needs to control himself like Joe Johnson does. It is the player who can maintain the discipline to harness their talent and use their energy for good that becomes the superstar. That’s a life lesson for this kid and I think it will work. One thing I have learned is that high school kids are very sharp and if you just listen to them you learn something new everyday.
Alright, back to your regularly scheduled basketball stuff. Is it All-Star break yet? We have our version of that, Regents grading week! Oh wait, not as exciting…