One and Done: The Hidden Reality
It has become rather commonplace to see highly touted athletes enter the NBA Draft as a “one and done” player. One and done refers to players who “matriculate” for one year while playing basketball for the schools that they attend (in order to skirt the rather nonsensical NBA rules which prohibit players from jumping directly from high school to the NBA; which is another story for another day). The reality is that you can skip classes for the fall semester, only be placed on probation for the spring, still never attend classes and jump to the NBA after the spring semester — which further makes the rule a farce — and several players have done this over the years. However, this article has nothing to do with the BS that is the NCAA and the college sports joke of a landscape from a financial standpoint. This has more to do with the effects of only one year of college on an adult.
For better or for (honestly) worse, we have been socialized to attend K-12, matriculate through college,
get a job, pay bills, pay off student loans, buy a house, get married, have children, retire and die. I refuse to cave into that ideal, but it is one that the past three generations have had pounded into their heads. One of the drawbacks of this socialization is how ill-prepared most people are to attack this world once they hit the age of 18.
Tracy McGrady (who we faced in our respective senior years in high school during the playoffs at the Dean E. Smith Center in 1997) famously stated that his first two years in Toronto with the Raptors were miserable and isolated. Why? Because he had jumped directly from his “high school” (basically a factory for players which has since closed, named “Mt. Zion Christian Academy” in Durham, North Carolina) and was too young to (legally) go to bars, lounges and clubs, or anyplace else that sold alcohol. He was 18 years of age. The majority of his teammates were grown men in their mid-late 20s or older, with families, and ventures outside of the NBA that absorbed much of their free time. McGrady was solely in Toronto to play basketball and had little else to do. What filled his free time, as a result of not being able to extensively fraternize with his teammates? Video games, tons of take out food and God knows what else a teenager with a million bucks can imagine with idle hands.
McGrady eventually flourished later in his career, before back injuries took their toll and reduced him to a shell of an NBA superstar. We await Andrew Wiggins’ fate in the NBA, as he will be a one and done in a different NBA landscape, where players have so much more exposure and opportunities to fill their time with lucrative ventures, and network effectively such that their NBA careers are successful, and they build relationships that last for a lifetime. NBA players soon learn that they can rarely trust anyone outside of a very small circle of attorneys, public relations personnel, financial advisors and the few relatives and friends who are not hanger-ons. You spend your entire career questioning the motives of the people who approach you, including (and especially) women, and are often urged by “old heads” to never marry, if at all, until your playing career is over.
Now flip it to “average Joes” who are run of the mill, future working stiffs who go to college thinking that it will benefit them in a future career. While some choose wisely their college majors, and matriculate effectively while transitioning into the career field, fewer and fewer (in contrast to the aforementioned lucrativeness that awaits 19, 20 year old players in today’s NBA) “average Joes” find success in a career of their choosing — or a job at all — in today’s landscape. And that’s even IF they finish college at all. For some, they may have to drop out due to family issues, financial woes, calls to the military, illness or academic probation. Think about it as a 19 year old who is forced (for any of the aforementioned reasons) to work full-time as a result, if they are even able to find employment, with limited to no real education, with people who are in their mid-late 20s and older (like McGrady; who is a great parallel personally-speaking, as we are two months apart in age, and graduated high school on the same day) with families, children, and other matters that require their attention, while you are limited in your ability to commiserate with co-workers, as you are unable to legally go to bars, clubs and lounges, or anyplace else that serves alcohol (which is the usual for most adults). Not only are your chances to build networking circles limited, but you are limited in opportunities to connect with people your age, most notably for dating purposes. This can be crippling for someone in their 20s and beyond. Some people finish college after taking the college landscape for granted, only to realize that it is virtually next to impossible to find anyone worth trusting with financial matters, business ventures or someone to potentially date or marry down the line, once they enter the career field of their choosing. The time commitment to their jobs and other matters eat up a majority of their time, for perpetuity, in some cases.
I have spoken to many people who have expressed this same concern after they even finished college after four or five years. Imagine someone who attended college for one year, and then was never around anyone their age again for well over a decade. Not only do you find yourself isolated quite often, but you are displaced without some serious mentoring and wise counsel who surrounds you with people with like-minded interests. One and done can be a beneficial thing when certain paydays, fame and networking opportunities await. However, when you leave college after one year, and either do not ever return, or wait nearly a decade to return, you realize that you are of a different frame of mind from those who are a decade younger than you when you reenter the college landscape. Regardless of one’s stance on college, one of the most important (and personally, 90% of the reason I ever went to college in the first place) reasons to attend college is to meet as many people from as many different backgrounds apart from your own as possible. You have a unique opportunity to network and build relationships that last a lifetime, in some cases. Most importantly, you grow into a man or woman during those 3-5 years, developing and honing responsibilities and preparing yourself to become self-sufficient apart from your parents and other means of support on a regular basis.
How often have we read stories of guys who leaped directly to the NBA out of high school, or after one year of “college” as a “student-athlete”, only to wake up one day at age 35 broke, still incapable of managing his finances, unable to propose a business plan, unable to build fruitful relationships, and overall under-equipped to handle matters on his/her own without mounds of help from several others? The same is true for many — although not nearly all — people who “go it alone” after one year of college. Obviously, attending college does not portend success. Many people have been successful who did not even complete high school, much less college, but the important point that my parents drove home while I was in high school was, “College is 90% networking and 10% academics.” It is true and probably always will be, because of the universal nature of, well, UNIVERSITIES. You rarely have opportunities to forge and cultivate such unique relationships in life outside of the undergraduate experience. Some people meet their lifetime buddies, spouses and business partners in college. Graduate studies such as Masters, Ph.D and Juris Doctorate studies are a bit different, as most students have many more responsibilities in life (and obviously have matriculated through undergraduate studies completely), and the landscape is a bit different socially.
Whether someone was forced to leave school for any number of reasons, or chose to leave on their own volition, they may be short-sighted and fail to realize that they are missing a great opportunity to forge relationships that can shape the rest of their lives. Without those life lessons that are learned in the 3-5 years of college, many end up deficient in the areas of networking contacts, fruitful friendships, and more notably, devoid of hardly any choices for worthwhile partners to date and eventually marry, if they so choose. Ask anyone who is in their 30s and experienced life this way, and, if they’re honest, they’ll tell you that they were limited to a very small circle for both networking and dating/marriage, if they chose, so they either networked from that small group, or married someone from that group, or did not marry at all, and are lamenting that they did not utilize the unique opportunity that the social landscape that the undergraduate experience provides.
Just something to think about…