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Go to College? LeBron Didn’t, But Everyone Else Should

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LBJ? Historians may cringe, but the only LBJ that matters this week more than 50 years after both the Civil Rights and the Voting Rights Acts isn’t the former president from the great state of Texas.

It’s the basketball player who skipped college.

LeBron James.

As I write this before Game 5 has even started, I must first admit to being a long-suffering Golden State Warriors fan. I remember being at college in Boston, doing the unthinkable — calling a sports talk show to gloat about a basketball team other than the Celtics. But I had to. The Warriors had just swept the Washington Bullets in the finals!

Even a reasonable man felt compelled to shout from the rooftops.

Forty years later, it could happen again.

But there’s just one man in the way — and just one man.

LBJ. LeBron James.

My hope is that the Warriors win Games 5 and 6 and that LeBron can get some rest.

He needs it. He’s practically been playing the Warriors by himself.

In the first three games, his 123 points are the most by a single player in an NBA final series.

LBJ has scored, assisted or created 200 of the Cavaliers’ 291 points through the first three games.

He was going one versus five against the Warriors and leading two games to one.

But we know what happened in Game 4 when the Warriors went small and LeBron and the rest of his “team” lost by 21, 103-82.

By the time Game 6 rolls around Tuesday, it may well be a “last-gasp, must win” for one of the teams. Either we get a Game 7 this Friday, or LBJ will be in a whirlpool ice bath for the next month.

Ah, but for you higher ed folks, LeBron has already answered the basic question for all the future students who must ponder the question: “Should I forgo college and go straight to the pros?”

Just show them LeBron’s resume and see if they believe they can match the feats of a gifted freak of nature?

At 6-feet-8-inches, 250 pounds, LeBron, as you’ll recall, went straight from St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.

As a prep, he was shamelessly hyped, and, by the time the 2003 NBA draft came around, there was no question.

College for LBJ? Are you kidding?

Not if you go by dollars.

He’s second only to boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. in income, who at $105,000,000 a year earns about $3.33 a second. Oh, and Mayweather didn’t go to college either.

But if money is the only reason people go to college, it’s too bad.

Because college will generally lose. They don’t pay you to read Shakespeare, study art or figure out the sociology of inequality.

It’s even more confusing when college is so overpriced; educators force money into the equation.

Ultimately, students have to worry about those darn student loans.

But dollars and sense be damned.

College isn’t about attaining taxable wealth.

It’s about attaining knowledge — all of it. Useful, useless, quirky, you’ll never know what will be relevant. It’s filling your reserve tank that counts.

It’s June, and so it’s fresh in all our minds. There’s something about crossing the stage in your cap and gown and hearing the phrase, “Welcome to the fellowship of educated men and women.”

It may mean little ultimately to some, but, in my case, it did add up, for a person of color to be lifted up to be something more. To finish the dream of my father, who started when he came across a boat in steerage from the Philippines in the 1920s. And worked his whole life at near minimum wage.

My bank account is better than my Dad’s. But it’s what LBJ uses for tip money.

Still, he doesn’t have a college degree.

And from what I saw in Game 4, LBJ was out of gas, fatigued. One versus five wasn’t working anymore. He was just physically spent. And all his money couldn’t help him.

Ian Thomsen of NBA.com noted that the fans were leaving the arena with 3:33 to go.

Thomsen wrote: “I don’t have any comment about it,” James said of the early leaving fans. “I mean, I came out of the game as well early. So we were on the same page.”

A fresh semi-circle of stitches accompanied the headache he suffered from a head-first spill into a TV camera in the second quarter. He was exhausted, his body was sore and a cross-country flight awaited. And yet he was smiling and joking and finding perspective from his former rivalry with the Celtic.

Oh, yeah the good old days, when he wasn’t the highest-paid NBA athlete at $2.29 per second.

But he’d be even more nostalgic about the college buddies he didn’t have. The ones he could have hung out with when he was 18, 19, 20, 21 — the years young boys become men in college. And fill the tanks for later.

For LeBron, later is coming soon. With all his money, he’ll be OK. But the NBA Finals series shows that, as a pro athlete, at age 30, even LBJ’s athletic days are numbered.

For others his same age, graduate school has recently ended and life is just beginning.

And that’s why you go to college.

Retired baller from the Association? Far better to leave the court retired and educated. It’s the big picture when the real game starts.

Emil Guillermo is an award-winning journalist and commentator, who writes for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund. Visit www.aaldef.org/blog ; www.twitter.com/emilamok; www.amok.com.

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