It's been a summer of discontent for the NBA. Tim Donaghy has pleaded guilty but the specifics of his misdeeds will have to wait til sentencing to be revealed...meaning more bad publicity. Some traffic mishaps have also made the grade news-wise: James Posey pleaded guilty to reckless driving, rookie Randolph Morris was charged with the same offense, and J. R. Smith survived an accident in which his best friend was killed. Worst yet, Eddie Griffin apparently killed himself by driving his SUV full speed into a passing freight train.
All those stories got a lot of play...as has the latest NBA scandal: Shaquille O'Neal divorcing his wife after she was supposedly found having an affair with her personal trainer who, the tabloids deliciously add, is a Cuban! All those stories, particularly Donaghy and Griffin, deserved a lot of play, but...
What hasn't gotten much attention is the generosity of the Nets' two swing men, Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter. Jefferson gave $3.5 million to his alma mater to help complete a practice facility for the next generation of Wildcats while Carter and his mother gave $1.6 million to a substance abuse clinic. Both will apparently bear the name of the donor: The Richard Jefferson Center in Tuscon, Ariz. and The Vince Carter Sanctuary in Brunell, Fla. Those are extraordinary figures, Jefferson's being the largest gift ever by a professional athlete to his alma mater while Carter's has to be among the biggest for a rehab clinic.
Yet, neither effort has received much play. Jefferson got some ink in the local Tuscon media, but his gift hardly made a ripple beyond Phoenix. Carter didn't even see any media outside Daytona Beach, his hometown. And not one of the New York and New Jersey papers that cover the Nets, not the Times, Post, Daily News, Star-Ledger, Record or Newsday, has reported the gifts other than in wire copy. No features, no profiles, no nothing. More than $5 million in donations to worthy causes by two teammates in a single month is newsworthy, or should be.
Harping on the media for not reporting on the good men do will often elicit a response that this is what good men are supposed to do: do good. Okay, but Jefferson and Carter's generosity is not run-of-the-mill. It's extraordinary...and in the case of Carter, part of a continuing pattern of helping young people. Just this spring, he was on hand for the dedication of a new gym at his alma mater, Mainland High, in Daytona, Beach. He paid the tab for the building -- $2.5 million (and no he didn't pay for the statue...his mother commissioned it and wanted it to be a surprise til the local board of education leaked it). And in spite of the treatment he gets every time he touches a basketball in Toronto, Carter was generous there as well, among other things, giving $130,000 a few years ago to build a playground in an "underserved" community, as the Toronto Star reported. Jefferson has also given of his time this year in other ways, including the taping of a commercial to help alleviate world hunger.
It's sort of a shame that the most play Jefferson's gift has gotten has been in Gilbert Arenas' playful NBA blog. Arenas, always a rival of his Arizona teammate, suggested RJ had to give all that cash so people would remember him, not an issue for Agent Zero. But at least Jefferson has gotten some commendation. Carter and his mother gave because of a family tragedy, the continuing problems that the NBA star's brother has had because of substance abuse. Talk about worthy causes.
Gary Sussman, the Nets' press guy, shouldn't have to make calls to get these two guys coverage. They don't need it and these are stories that should get reporters to call in. There are some obvious and not so obvious angles...whose idea was it for Jefferson to make the pledge. What was the reaction from Lute Olson, RJ's college coach, when the magic number was reached; what discussions did Carter and his mother have about the sanctury; how is his brother doing.
Maybe neither of them wants publicity. I guess that's possible, but both did give interviews to their local papers in Tucson and Daytona Beach. Surely, there are reporters in New York or New Jersey they'd be willing to talk to.
Editor's Note: Net Income has been a reporter for a very long time.