Unfortunately, as sports has entered the realm of big business, the importance of money has overshadowed the true purpose of the game.
The NBA is currently in its fourth lockout in league history. The players and owners can’t agree on the division of the league’s $4 billion in marketing rights.
However, one former NBA player has hope that an agreement will be reached.
Mel Davis was born in Bedford-Stuyvesant in 1950. Though his family was Baptist, he attended Holy Rosary School, Bedford-Stuyvesant, from kindergarten to third grade.
From a young age, sports played a role in his life. Before playing basketball, Davis was an avid swimmer. But once he hit a growth spurt, he turned “hoops.”
He played basketball at Boys H.S. (currently Boys and Girls H.S.), Bedford-Stuyvesant, and he wound up leading the basketball team to two N.Y.C. championships in his three seasons.
“I had some real memorable days back in Brooklyn that are special to me,” said Davis.
Davis’ family support at home and hard work brought him to St. John’s University, Jamaica. Standing at six-feet seven-inches, Davis was a rebounding machine. His teammates relied on his rebounding skills, since that’s the easiest way for a team to regain possession.
“I loved rebounding; that was really my forte,” said Davis. “And once in a while, I would score.”
Though St. John’s legendary coach Lou Carnesecca moved briefly to the pro ranks during Davis’ tenure, Davis chose the school based on its values and standards. He wanted a school that stressed education and where he could attain a valuable degree.
In addition to being just one borough away from his family, Davis saw that St. John’s was surrounded by the N.Y. media and two professional teams, which aided in his decision.
“St. John’s offered me a stage,” Davis said. “I could be a big fish in a little pond here.”
As the team’s primary power forward, Davis excelled in the Red Men’s system from 1969 to 1972. Though only two of these seasons were with the varsity squad, he still ranks seventh on the school’s all-time rebounding list (845).
The New York Knicks made him their first-round draft pick (14th overall) in 1973. As a Knicks’ fan himself, he’ll never forget being in the team’s office listening to the radio when his name was called.
“It’s very special to live your dream,” said Davis. “To dream and live your dream is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Davis spent four seasons in the NBA – a little over three with the Knicks and the remainder of his final season with the New York Nets. He averaged 5.3 pts. and 4.3 rebounds per game.
After holding the title of executive director of the National Basketball Retired Players Association, Davis currently serves as the director of alumni relations at St. John’s. He plays a role in recruiting, philanthropy and any special events in which alumni are involved.
“I really look at myself as an ambassador for St. John’s,” said Davis.
Though he admits the school itself has changed since his playing days, he is doing his part to keep the values of St. John’s alive.
On Oct. 10, NBA Commissioner David Stern cancelled the first two weeks of the 2011-2012 NBA season as the current lockout continues. As it stands, 22 of the 30 teams claim they would lose money under the current agreement.
“Many of the issues they are addressing are valuable and important,” Davis said. “But the real key is that both the players and the owners built this league together. They can’t lose sight of that. They can’t have one without the other.”
It’s a very sensitive subject matter. The players put the fans in the seats, but the owners turn on the lights in the arenas.
An NBA lockout would have been unheard of in Davis’ time. However, he claims that since the game has gone global, it’s become a lucrative operation.
“The league has come a long way,” said Davis. “That just shows the vision, the hard work and the scope that David Stern has taken with the league over the years.”
Davis has heard both sides of the argument and hopes that negotiations can be worked out for both the players’ and owners’ sake. He believes there will be a shortened NBA season, but a season nonetheless.
While Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony won’t be severely affected by the lockout, the recent draft picks and players who fight for roster spots each year may be in trouble. Basketball is their livelihood, which has forced some players to seek opportunities overseas.
“There’s a very small window,” Davis said. “You only have 10-12 years if you’re lucky and one of the elite players. Once that door closes, it’s over.”
Davis is worried that the turnaround exhibited after the NFL lockout won’t be applied to the NBA, since the latter is just not as popular. Even if an agreement is reached, the cost of tickets, parking fees and concessions could all skyrocket.
“In the long run, the fan is the one I’m really concerned about,” Davis said. “Where does it end so that a fan can enjoy a game?”
While he’s optimistic that a deal will be reached, he sees the lockout as a blessing in disguise for the college game.
“St. John’s has a tremendous opportunity to take over New York and Madison Square Garden,” said Davis.
When it’s all said and done, the NBA players and owners need to put aside their greed and realize – like Davis already has – how lucky they all truly are.
This Past Weekend
St. Francis Prep 34
Christ the King 20
Cardinal Spellman 20
Bishop Ford 0
Holy Cross 40
Bishop Kellenberg 14[hr]
St. Anthony’s 6-0
Mount St. Michael 4-2
Msgr. Farrell 3-3
Holy Trinity 1-5
St. Joseph by the Sea 0-6[hr]
St. John’s Prep 4-2
Cardinal Hayes 4-2
St. Francis Prep 3-3
St. Peter’s 3-3
Bishop Ford 3-3
Christ the King 1-5
Cardinal Spellman 0-6