With the NBA lockout lasting nearly 150 days, NBA players needed to find something to keep them busy. Several decided to take their talents overseas, including Deron Williams and Tony Parker, some decided to stay put train here in the United States, and others focused on doing work in the community. Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love, Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook, Cleveland Cavaliers guard Baron Davis, and New Orleans Hornets guard Trevor Ariza had a different idea. These four decided to head back out to California and re-enroll at UCLA and take classes. Each of them were stars while playing their college ball at UCLA and left for the NBA prior to finishing school, so they all decided it would be a great time to head back to school and inch closer to getting their degrees. Additionally, being in California has enabled these players to continue their training routines at top-of-the-line facilities and train with other All-Star caliber NBA players.
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Ariza explains that he decided to go back to school for his two sons. “Eventually they’re going to realize that their dad fulfilled his dreams doing what he wanted to do and still got his degree. For them to see that will be a great example for them to follow,’ said Ariza. He believes that this lockout is not such a bad thing in that it has a real chance at encouraging other players in the same position that he is in to go back and continue their education. With the recent news that the lockout is coming to an end, Ariza plans to continue to take online classes.
UCLA’s athletics assistant director of academic services Kenny Donaldson played a big role in recruiting these former players to come back to school. He has always reminded former players that even though they may have left school early to go to the NBA, it is important and possible that they return at some point to work toward their graduation. “When the lockout looked like it was going to be a definite thing, I kind of sat down with each of them and laid out a game plan,” Donaldson said in talking about these four NBA players. “You don’t want to get them back in something that they’re not going to be interested in. I presented them with options and they found classes that they thought would be interesting, and are easing back into it right now.”
Other NBA players are also returning to school. Minnesota Timberwolves forward Anthony Randolph rented an apartment in Baton Rouge within walking distance of his former school Louisiana State University. He only played one season at LSU before being drafted in the NBA, so he was eager to get back to school. He enrolled in a math class in the summer and has taken three classes this fall. “I don’t have the basketball distraction. I’m a more focused student now after being in the real world for a couple of years,” says Randolph.
With the average NBA career lasting just under 5 years, there is a lot of life for most players after basketball. Even though many NBA players often receive outrageous contracts that make them multi-millionaires, many others aren’t nearly as fortunate. The league minimum salary still makes those who receive it extremely wealthy in the meantime, but with the average career length being so short, getting an education can be crucial for many. It open the door to countless opportunities in life after basketball, and many players are urged to head back to school so they are ensured to be taken care of financially later in life.
As an avid fan this NBA lockout seemed absolutely ridiculous and was certainly extremely frustrating. However, when I look at it from a different point of view, I realize that period of time really gave players a chance to do things they otherwise wouldn’t have, as was true for Love, Westbrook, Davis, Ariza, Randolph and others. It is refreshing to see so many players deciding to go back to their respective universities and really use the lockout to their advantage. Other things matter in life besides playing your sport, and it’s important for all athletes to realize that and utilize whatever opportunities they get to pursue other things, such as getting their education.