With all the free time that NBA players were given over the summer you would think that they would have done something productive. Perhaps they could have taught kids that “Reading is fundamental,” as the commercial suggests. Maybe, they could have gone back to the communities they grew up in and built new homes for struggling families. Or better yet, they could have banded together and actually brought home a World Championship against inferior nations that are supposed to beat us in soccer, not basketball. All of the preceding would have been honorable acts that would have given them the precious media attention that they constantly seek. Well, the players from the NBA sure got their fair share of press this summer ? in the police blotter, not the sports section.

Allen Iverson, Glenn Robinson, Derrick Coleman, Damon Stoudamire, Stephon Marbury, Kurt Thomas, Rodney Buford and former NBA star Jayson Williams all received ink for their legal troubles this summer. As the NBA season begins this week, it is again time to question whether its stars are being responsible role models for the community to look up to?

This goes back to the famous blurb by Charles Barkley, who several years ago said, “I am not a role model, kids should look to their parents as role models, not players like me.” Barkley promptly responded by throwing a man out of a plate glass window during a bar fight.

Chuck might not want to take on the responsibility of being a role model, but NBA players are omnipresent in the eyes of young, impressionable kids. How can you say that the behavior of NBA players doesn’t have an effect when every Vince Carter dunk is replayed on “Sportscenter” seven times, the Kobe Bryant jersey is to teenagers what an Abercrombie sweater is to college students, and when NBA 2K3 appears more on a kid’s television screen than the “Simpsons”?

It is even more disconcerting that NBA players are getting off for committing crimes that normally would have landed them in jail. Derrick Coleman only received community service after driving 100 mph in a 70 mph zone while intoxicated. The lenient sentences that these stars are receiving give young fans the belief that the public is condoning their errant behavior. How is it possible for a 17-year-old to think that driving under the influence is wrong when they see Stephon Marbury swerving lanes after doing too many shots at the bar?

David Stern must get his players to realize that their actions have a profound effect on the young fans who model more than just their crossover dribbles after them. It is time for the NBA players to clean up their act. I, for one, wouldn’t want to come across Charles Barkley at a bar.



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