By A.V. Sherk – Assistant Sports Editor
Millions of kids in poverty stricken households dream of signing contracts and making fortunes within the NBA. However, past players like the Celtics’ Kenny Anderson, the Bulls’ Scottie Pippen and most recently Allen Iverson all made hundreds of millions of dollars just to end their careers bankrupt with no college degree.
The Charlotte Bobcats took their training camp to the Sherrill Center last week, and a few of the players had advice for the up and coming college players.
“Your education is always important,” Bobcats’ guard Ben Gordon said. “Cause I’ve seen guys get drafted and think their job is done. They’ve made it to the pinnacle of success. But really, there’s about 30 new guys coming to the NBA every single year. That means 30 players lose their jobs.”
According to Gordon, players should remember that basketball is a game and a business.
“You want to give it your all because this is a dream. You’ve been thinking about this since you were a little kid,” Gordon said. “Remember that basketball is a business, but hold on to that love. Remember why you started playing the game.”
Every college basketball player dreams of going pro, but only 1 percent make it to the NBA. Cody Zeller is the Bobcats’ youngest player, turning 21 just last week, and his dream of playing professional basketball came true through hard work.
“It’s a lot of hard work and in the end it’s all worth it,” Zeller said. “On and off the basketball court I’ve always put everything into whatever I do, whether it’s in the classroom or on the basketball court. Nothing’s going to be given to you.”
Zeller left Indiana University to join the Bobcats. According to Zeller, it was one of the hardest decisions he ever made.
“We moved to Indiana when I was a year old. Indiana is all I’ve ever known,” Zeller said. “It was a tough decision just because I enjoyed Indiana so much. Moving to a city where you don’t know anyone is different, but it’s been my dream to play in the NBA for my whole life. (Indiana) was just such a great experience for me, and it led to a job playing in the NBA. Everyday that’s your life now, and I’m definitely excited to be living out my dream.”
Gordon remembered his life-altering move from college ball to the NBA, and said it was hard work to stay a professional player.
“The transition from college to the NBA is surreal at first,” Gordon said. “It was the start of a great career. A real dream come true. To make it here is hard, to stay is even harder. We’re really blessed to have this opportunity to do what we love and it’s a great experience.”
Bobcats’ forward Jeffery Taylor is one of the few players on the team who graduated with his degree before moving on to play pro.
“Well, for me I didn’t have a choice. I was a senior. But the two previous years I chose to stay in school to gain some maturity,” the Vanderbilt graduate said. “I wanted to finish up my degree. I graduated and had my degree in sociology.”
Taylor said staying, not joining, was the toughest part of a professional basketball career.
“It’s a huge difference going from college to the NBA, personal life and on the court. It’s a process and you have to get used to it,” Taylor said. “Every year there’s always young talented guys coming out of school hoping to do what you did a couple years ago. You have to stay on your game. There’s always somebody out there who wants what you have so you have to realize that and realize you have to work hard to keep it.”
Even Taylor, a younger player at 24 years old, said he has a couple of back up plans, just in case.
“In terms of backup plans, I have my degree. Obviously I could go back to school and get my master’s if I wanted to. Maybe in a couple years or so I would like to do something in real estate or coaching,” Taylors said. “It’s two really different things, I know.”
According to Gordon, being able to play in the NBA is a surreal blessing that is worth the work.
“It’s a combination of all the blood, sweat and tears that you put into the game,” Gordon said. “I started playing when I was 10, so for me it was 11 years later that all the hard work paid off all those sacrifices.”