Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Jacob and Jabari: Draft Dodgers or Just Crappy?

Summertime in Teaneck, NJ was a harmoniously biracial season: the kids who didn't go to sleepaway camp instead went to "Teaneck Sports & Arts," a mostly town-funded day program with a bunch of sports classes (baseketball, ping-pong, and floor hockey were the most popular) and art 101s (drawing, clay, woodworking, etc). Teaneck's demographic makeup is such that half the camp was Jewish and the other half was black--there were curiously few white Christian kids, and virtually no Asians, Indians, South Americans, or Europeans.

There was very little dichotomy within the camp; everybody was friends with everybody else. The Jews learned about rap, baggy shorts, and do rags, and salivated over stories about public school letting out at 3:00. The black kids, meanwhile, learned about Sabbath, Kosher, and private school oppression. One thing, however, was strictly divided along race lines: basketball. The black kids were great at it, the Jewish kids were not. The talent chasm wasn't a point of acrimony, though, since it was a generally accepted truth, and not a source of contention. We, the Jews, accepted our poor, Darwinian fate, and realized that our best chance at winning at anything came at ping-pong or karate. Of course, the black basketballers had their own hierarchy, and there were always those who were much, much better than others. There were two kids, Jacob and Jabari, who were beating people twice their age in 2-on-2's when they were 8. Apparently, nothing came of either of them.

That's what's unbelievable about the NBA draft: how much better could you possibly be than Jacob and Jabari? Maybe the top prospects are a little taller and stronger, but how much ability could a person possibly embody? Regardless of which teams win the privelege of picking first and second in the June draft, respectively, the first two picks will be Greg Oden and Kevin Durant--no one really knows who will go first and who second, but they will comprise the top selections. And I can't help but wonder exactly how good they are, since they're not only good enough to play top-tier college basketball--which a very, very select handful of Teaneckers have ever done--but also to warrant speculation that they might be two of the best performers in league history. Seriously, how much better are they than Jacob and Jabari? Twice as good? Ten times as good? Incomparably better?

To this Teaneck native, whose defining athletic achievements came in the calligraphy room, it all seems incomprehensible.

Stay Classy, Anne the calligraphy instructor,
DJ Draft

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