Like many former college athletes, Darren Collison spent the summer of 2010 at the university he previously attended. But DC didn’t only return to UCLA to hit the gym and catch up with old friends. As per a promise to his parents and himself, Darren finished up his degree in History and earn his Bachelor’s. The Pacers guard told SLAM about the decision and why he felt compelled to wrap up his education.

Originally published in SLAM 144

by Darren Collison (as told to Adam Figman)

I just felt like [going back to finish my degree] was the right thing to do. I wanted to do something for my parents—they’ve been supporting me my whole life. I felt like the NBA wasn’t going anywhere, so I felt like going back to college and finishing up and getting that degree, for my parents. My parents supported me throughout my whole basketball career, came to many, many games, and I know a degree doesn’t come often, so I wanted to do something special for them. Toward the end of my junior year, that’s when I really started thinking about it. Then when the Draft got closer, I was like, OK, I think I’m gonna make the decision to go back. I only had one more year, so it was a no-brainer just to go back and finish up.

Education factors in a lot of things. You’re more mature. You’re more knowledgeable about what’s going on in society, not just on the court. Of course, communication. Everybody can respect a degree from UCLA, and some day it’ll open up jobs for later on in life. We’re talented basketball players, but after the NBA we become businessmen. So I definitely put myself in position to do that. You can’t just rely on the NBA; you’re only going to be in the NBA for so long. Darren Collison

I felt like history was the best degree, the one that I was most comfortable with. That was one of the things that I was familiar with coming into college, and I was definitely fascinated with what I was learning. Some day I might be teaching it, so I love to learn history stuff. The ’60s movement, with Martin Luther King Jr, and the Civil Rights Movement, that was pretty much the most interesting. It shows you how far African-Americans have come. And even today, you’ve got guys like LeBron and Kobe and guys of that nature, that are really good businessmen, and Martin Luther King Jr really paved the way for them. 

There was only one class that I needed to finish up. The schedule was tough, at times. But it’s a long summer, so I managed to get it done. Instead of just one workout, or two workouts, I’d do one workout a day and integrate it into my class schedule. But it worked out pretty fine. I didn’t have class every day, I had it like twice a week. I miss the atmosphere. The games—how it was just rockin’ loud every day. Other than that, I’m happy where I’m at right now. Even when you’re the Big Man on Campus, you still gotta do schoolwork. As an NBA player, all you’re doing is playing basketball.

A lot of players, they need the financial situation, so they tend to leave early. And there are a lot of players who are really good, who can go to the NBA real early. But if you get to your junior or senior year, you might as well knock it out.