The Epitome of the STUDENT-athlete: It’s the RAK!!

Come on
Ha hey yo stop playin man
This is real serious
Ha… It’s the Roc… yeah yo

Jay-Z, “Guns & Roses”

 

Black collegiate student-athletes should strive to be like Syracuse Superstar Rakeem Christmas. He has blazed a trail that should be followed. He represents all that “could be and should be” in collegiate athletics.

Rakeem GraduateSyracuse Graduate, Rakeem Christmas

For the most part, collegiate Football and Basketball fans either don’t know or don’t care about the dismal academic outcomes for black male student-athletes. They acknowledge and loudly applaud their performances in jam-packed stadiums and arenas while ignoring the cold hard fact that half of them will never earn a degree. Within ivory towers across the country, there’s a largely unspoken acceptance among administrators and faculty of black athletes as unconscious accomplices in a naked race for exponentially expanding athletic revenues.

To a considerable extent, black male student-athletes are not viewed as worthy members of learning communities within academic institutions. They are modern-day gladiators, merely entertainers for the rest of the campus community and well-heeled alums.

Stats don’t lie… People do…

Black men among the top 25 BCS schools represent 3 percent of their student bodies but 60 percent of the football players. The performances of 3 percent in football and basketball contests generate hundreds of millions, perhaps even, billions of dollars for NCAA and their respective schools on an annual basis. These revenue streams have evolved into veritable “Nile rivers” of cash.

cardale-jones

Cardale Jones, Quarterback of Ohio State’s National Champion Football Team

Let’s take just a cursory glance at the top lines for NCAA football and basketball. On the gridiron, in 2014, the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC each drew a baseline amount of approximately $50 million in the first year of a 12-year contract. The other five FBS-level leagues will split $75 million. The “BIG” football schools are in the midst of an unprecedented windfall that’s more than five times greater than their combined payday in 2013.

According to Bill Hancock, the College Football Playoff’s executive director, “It’s good for everybody… There’s more money for everybody.” One cannot dispute his assertions, the BCS schools and a few other major conferences have put forth proposals to provide athletes with stipends, to allow athletes to borrow money to obtain injury insurance and to prohibit schools from pulling scholarships from athletes due to injury or poor performance.

They can certainly afford to make these concessions to the players.

USA TODAY Sports has reported that BCS football playoff television revenue will average at least $470 million annually over the life of the contract. Ticket and merchandising sales and sponsorship deals could add $40-50 million annually, on average.

The NCAA makes even more marketing and selling the performances of it’s basketball players.

It is very likely that within the next 48 months, the NCAA will surpass a billion dollars in annual revenue. The exponential revenue growth is a direct result of lucrative television rights for its men’s basketball tournament.

The NCAA cashes in every year during “March Madness.” It wasn’t always this way.

As recently as 1973, when the first wave of Black student-athletes were recruited to all-white Jim Crow athletic departments across the Southern part of the country, TV rights for the NCAA tournament generated only about $1 million. Plainly stated, segregated collegiate sports weren’t generating the enormous revenues we see today.

1967-alabama-footballAlabama’s 1967 Football Team

Let’s recognize that it wasn’t until June 9, 1969 that the University of Kentucky signed it’s first Black basketball player. In 1971, Alabama signed it’s first Black football player.  Over the next decade, Black student-athletes became de rigueur in the American south. The influx of Black student-athletes into major college sports was accompanied by an explosion in revenues. The performances of Black student-athletes have become extremely marketable and valuable. Last year, Men’s basketball tournament multimedia rights accounted for more than $680 million of the NCAA’s nearly $913 million in total revenue.

So… How have Black student-athletes fared? What are they getting out of the deal? Have young Black student-athletes been entering “Faustian Bargains” since the early 1970’s? Have they abandoned their commitment to academic achievement in order to play on the largest stage? Are they modern day equivalents to Roman gladiators?

Shaun Harper, Collin Williams and Horatio Blackman of the Center for the Study of Race and Equity at Penn Graduate School of Education,  reported the following in their study of graduation rates:

~ Across four cohorts, 50.2% of black male student-athletes graduated within six years, compared to 66.9% of student/athletes overall, 72.8% of undergraduate students overall, and 55.5% of black undergraduate men overall.

~ 96.1% of these NCAA Division I colleges and universities graduated black male student-athletes at rates lower than student-athletes overall.

~ 97.4% of these institutions graduated black male student-athletes at rates lower than undergraduate students overall.

By any reasonable measure, Black male student-athletes are struggling. Plainly stated, half of them do not graduate within six years. At nearly every D1 school they graduate at rates lower than student-athletes overall. Moreover, they graduate at rates lower than undergraduate students overall.

The picture is more than bleak! It’s downright scary… Young Black men are entering the chamber and fewer than half are emerging out of the other end with a degree within six years… There’s gotta be a better way…

Who will provide the example? Where is our Beacon on the Hill?

It’s the RAK!!

Rakeem1Rakeem Christmas, Syracuse

The numbers are beyond impressive. Syracuse’s Rakeem Christmas is averaging 18.4 ppg and 9.0 rpg in an astounding senior campaign. One of the favorites for ACC Player of the Year and a sure fire ALL-American, Christmas dropped 35 and 9 on Wake Forest. In his very next game he put up 21 and 10 against Clemson. Miami was victimized for 23 and 8, while he gave North Carolina 22 and 12.

Rakeem is, without question, the most productive BIG in college basketball this season.

However, the greatest numbers he has put up over the past year were 120 and 3.

120 and 3…

Defying the odds and refuting stereotypes, Rakeem Christmas graduated from Syracuse University – earning 120 credits of coursework – in just 3 years.

The Syracuse graduation requirements are very clear. Students must earn a minimum of 120 credits of coursework for the B.A. or B.S. degree. For all students enrolling in the College of Arts and Sciences, 30 of the 120 credits must be taken in upper-division courses. Every major leading to the bachelor’s degree in the College of Arts and Sciences must include at least 18 credits of upper-division work (courses numbered 300 and above) in the field of study.

In an era where half of Black male student-athletes fail to graduate within 6 years, Rakeem graduated in 3.

It’s the RAK!!

Rakeem2After three seasons as a Syracuse starter, Christmas graduated as a junior with a B.S. in communications and rhetorical studies from SU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. According to Head Coach Jim Boeheim, Christmas is the first to accomplish this feat. Boeheim said, “It’s got to be about as rare as can be… It’s an unbelievable accomplishment.”

What was the key to his academic success? Is there a secret that can be passed on to other Black student-athletes in high profile D1 programs?

So… Rak, exactly how did you get this done? “I’m just here in the summer time a lot and I was taking a lot of classes… For my major, I was just knocking out a lot of stuff that I needed. So I was getting down to it and I realized I had taken a lot of my major courses.”

Everyone familiar with the demands of collegiate sports is familiar with the obstacles. There are probably a minimum of 15-20 hours practice each week. If you want to get better, you have to exceed the mandatory time in the weight room. In the hyper-competitive ACC there are countless hours spent in meetings and studying film. After all, it is widely considered the premier conference in all of college basketball.

Then after all of that, you have to travel up and down the East Coast to play the games. This demanding schedule takes you away from the classroom. You invariably miss lectures and seminars.

How have you managed this demanding schedule? “The travel is the tough… We’re away from campus a lot, but I made sure I kept in contact with professors, emailing them and sending in assignments.”

Raised primarily by his Aunt, Amira Hamid, Rakeem has internalized her lessons on the importance of developing and refining his ability to prioritize and compartmentalize aspect of his life.

Rakeem and AmiraRakeem and Amira Hamid

“Practice isn’t that bad for me. It’s about two hours out of my day. I practice and I go home and work before going to sleep.”

He admits that road games can be a challenge.

“When we’re traveling, I don’t really want to focus on class work. I’m thinking about the game… But I know I’ve got to get the work done.”

Hamid has instilled a strong West Indian value system in Rakeem.

“I’m pretty self-motivated… My first year, people had to tell me what to do. But I have come to realize that I have to get it done… I learned to pay attention to the little things that you need to do to get it all done.”

Oh…… Rak’s gotten it done….

His freshman year Syracuse went 34-3 and reached the Elite Eight. As a sophomore he helped the Orange to a 30-10 record and a Final Four Appearance. During his junior year, the Orange were 28-6 and made it to the Third Round of the NCAA Tournament.

The team has been incredibly successful. Average attendance in the Carrier Dome was 26,253 in 2014.

Most importantly, Rakeem came out of the chamber early. His degree was firmly in hand after 3 seasons. He is an example for all Black collegiate student-athletes that come after him. He’s committed to helping younger kids understand the importance of focusing and setting priorities.

A McDonald’s All-American in high school, he struggled early trying to find a niche on supremely talented Syracuse squads. Unlike the 604 Men’s Basketball student-athletes that transferred in 2014, Rakeem buckled down, hit the books and worked on his craft. He has reaped the benefits of studying as he makes his way through a Master’s program. Syracuse is reaping the benefits of his perseverance as he slays ACC opponents night in and night out.

A classic win-win proposition… That’s exactly how it should be for every young Black student-athlete participating in collegiate athletics.

“I love Syracuse University! I couldn’t imagine going to another school… I bleed Orange!”

Rakeem4It’s the RAK!!

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Pussy Is Undefeated!! Youngfellas, Please Take Notes…

Pussy got a better record than Floyd Mayweather. Undefeated every win by KO.

Charlamagne Tha God

Pussy is undefeated…

Some things you learn from your parents… Some things you learn in school… Some things you learn on the streets… Your friends, especially during that awkward transitional period known as puberty, will try to teach you a thing or two…

But, some of the most important lessons in life can only be learned through experience. It’s taken me half a century to come to this realization. Please allow me to give you a few of examples of shit I have come to understand, on my own, over the years.

I was born exactly 50 years ago, January 12, 1965. I came into a world and a nation characterized by strife and conflict. Unbeknownst to me, from the moment I drew my very first breath, my life was directly impacted by European colonialism and the resulting international conflicts.

White Americans and their European 1st cousins rule the world…

Life taught me this important lesson very early on. While I was learning to sit up, hold a bottle, crawl and eventually walk… The United States was heavily involved in a protracted conflict with the communist government of North Vietnam.

As a boy focused almost exclusively on how Ultra Man would overcome the evil monsters and awed by the strength Bam-Bam displayed in the fictional city of Bedrock, I had no way of knowing North Vietnam had run the French Colonialists out of their homeland in 1954. Looking back as I begin my second half-century, it kinda makes sense that the Vietnamese wanted to govern themselves.

ultraman

Ultra Man

Who doesn’t? What people in this world want to be ruled by foreign powers?

George Washington, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and the rest of the American Founding Fathers wanted the exact same thing and, for that, they are revered and celebrated.

One can almost imagine Alexander Hamilton or Ben Franklin loudly saying “FUCK King George!” The founding Fathers were rightly pissed about the lack of American representation in English Parliament. They really resented direct taxes levied by the English Parliament on the American colonies without their consent. Over time, they came to the conclusion that King George and the rest of England could “fuck off.” They created self-governing provinces, they circumvented the British ruling apparatus in each colony by 1774. Finally, in July 1776, they said “we out!”

We all know the narrative… It’s been drilled into us from Day 1… King George and England were the bad guys. Washington and the other Founding Fathers seeking self-governance and independence were the good guys.

As I came into the world, active US combat units were being introduced into Vietnamese Arena. By the time I was four, in 1969, more than 500,000 U.S. military personnel were stationed in Vietnam.

vietnamChildren running during Vietnam War

The North Vietnamese, like Jefferson, Adams and Franklin 180 years earlier, sought independence and self-determination.

“Fuck the French… We out!”

My toddler brain was only capable of caring about Ultra Man and 1 soldier, Private James Earl Wilson, my father. He was drafted and sent to fight for “his country” I was told.

When he came home, his foot was gone.

That’s how I learned Europeans rule the world… During my formative years, all I knew was that war took my father’s foot. War was bad… Actually, war was really fucked up.

 

To me, Muhammad Ali made perfect sense when he said, “I Ain’t Got No Quarrel With The VietCong… No VietCong Ever Called Me Nigger.” My Pop ain’t have no skin in that game. Yet, he came home without his foot. He made a helluva sacrifice for “his country” and the dying remnants of the French Colonial empire.

This process helped me become an “experiential learner.” That is, it helped me improve my ability to learn a lot of shit on my own.  Experiential learning is a process through which people develop knowledge, skills, and values from direct experiences outside a traditional academic setting. Basically, it’s the shit you pick up and understand on your own.

For example, my teachers in high school and college never explained why George Washington was a revered “freedom fighter” and Nelson Mandela was a “despised terrorist”….

Some shit, I came to learn, you just have to pick up through experience and observation…

Over the past 5 decades, I have learned a lot of things outside the classroom.

White Flight is real…

Every February for as long I can remember, Black school children across the country are reminded that Crispus Attucks was the 1st American casualty in the the Revolutionary War, Frederick Douglass fought against slavery, Jackie Robinson was the 1st Black player in Major League baseball, Rosa Parks refused to give her seat on bus to a white man, Dr. King gave a great speech during the March on Washington and the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court in 1954 ruling ended segregation in American public schools.

WKNnettie.jpgNettie Hunt and her daughter Nikki on Supreme Court steps in 1954

However, my experiences taught me a very different lesson… Every day, I got on buses with 200-300 other Black Darby Township students and we rode right past two predominantly white high schools to get to our predominantly Black high school…

While my history textbooks told me that school segregation was formally declared unconstitutional in 1954, my daily experiences from 1977-1982 taught me something very different… Segregation was very much alive… the Court ordered only that the states end segregation with “all deliberate speed.” This vagueness about how to enforce the ruling gave segregationists in Delaware County the opportunity to organize resistance. Their stall tactics worked for a full three decades.

Finally, after 30 years “all deliberate speed” arrived in the Southeast Delco School District… After, attending schools that were more than 90% Black from K-11, I spent my senior year as a distinct minority in the “desegregated” and newly formed Academy Park High School.

When it opened in 1982, the newly formed Academy Park HS was about 70% White and 30% Black… Today the school is about 70% Black and 30% White…

White flight is very real…

Again, my teachers and textbooks said one thing, my experiences taught me something very different…

This brings me to, perhaps, one of the most important lessons I have gleaned from 50 years of learning shit on my own. Like the examples cited above, the books don’t cover this one. Nonetheless… It’s extremely important.

Young fellas… Pussy is undefeated…. Please take notes!

In this corner some very famous, powerful and wealthy men like Mike Tyson, Bill Clinton, Tiger Woods and most recently Bill Cosby….

And… In the other corner… pussy…

The resulting losses have been breathtaking, monumental and widely covered by the media… pussy has registered some incredible ass whoopings.

As you transition from High School to college, know that this lesson is not discussed in classrooms, you will not be assigned research papers on the topic, books on the subject won’t appear on syllabi… Yet… Eventually, you will come to know it’s the truth…

Of all the lessons Ol’ Heads try to impart on young fellas, this may be the hardest to teach. I have concluded, for many, this lesson can only be absorbed through experiential learning.  Unfortunately, most of us have to experience the body shots, upper cuts, left hooks and right crosses first hand.

One very recent high profile case serves as a classic example…

Over the past decade, David H. Petraeus, a retired four-star general served as commander of American forces in both Iraq (2007) and Afghanistan (2010). After that, President Obama appointed him to lead the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 2011.

Plainly stated, Petraeus was da fucking MAN! He was running shit!!

He was at the forefront of presidential campaign speculation….

It all came crashing down when pussy whooped his ass…

Iraqi FreedomGeneral Petraeus during a briefing at the Pentagon

On January 9, 2014, the New York Times reported that the F.B.I. and Justice Department prosecutors have recommended bringing felony charges against Petraeus.

Essentially, they are saying he was “pussy whooped” and it caused him to lose sight of his role and responsibilities…

According to the feds, he provided classified information to a lover while he was director of the C.I.A. The Justice Department investigation stems from an affair Mr. Petraeus had with Paula Broadwell, an Army Reserve officer who was writing his biography, and focuses on whether he gave her access to his C.I.A. email account and other highly classified information.

Of course General Patraeus is presumed innocent of all charges until they are proven in a court of law… I have no idea if he committed any crimes… That is for Attorney General Eric Holder to determine.

What we know for sure is that pussy kicked his Ass… 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10… He’s out!!

Petraeus admitted as much in a statement as he resigned from the CIA, he stated “after being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment… Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours,” Petraeus said, referring to the C.I.A. “This afternoon, the president graciously accepted my resignation.”

Man down!!

Petraeus was at the pinnacle of power and prestige within the American Government. His future was wide open… Several laudatory chapters in American history books already secured, he was headed for a legitimate run for President… No more… This story plays out over and over again..

Who can forget that day in December 2009 when the immensely proud and intensely private Tiger Woods stood before the world and admitted, “I have not been true to my values and the behavior my family deserves… I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart.”

tiger-woods-02-jpgTiger Woods Apologizing on National Television for “transgressions” during marriage

Virtually unbeatable on the fairways and greens, Tiger suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of…. Pussy.

Down for an 8 count, dazed, trying to make it to the end of one of the late rounds… President Clinton resorted to the following verbal gymnastics while trying to extricate himself from a relentless assault featuring devastating body shots:

“It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is…. Now, if someone had asked me on that day, are you having any kind of sexual relations with Ms. Lewinsky, that is, asked me a question in the present tense, I would have said no. And it would have been completely true.”

That Georgetown education provide Bill with some ammunition, but in the end it wasn’t enough.  He took the L like millions of other men that came before him.

bill_clinton_denies_monicaBill Clinton denies having “sexual relations” with White House intern, Monica Lewinsky

Young fellas… Pussy is about 973,864,899,034 – 0… More importantly, most of the victories have been secured by way of knockout…

I started thinking about all of this because one of my favorite young bucks, Brandon Austin, is on the ropes… He’s staggering, almost out on his feet… Like Holyfield in the third round of the Bert Cooper fight… He’s holding onto his opponent trying to prevent further immediate damage… On the surface, it looks like pussy’s gonna get another body…

Looks, however, can be deceiving…

When one examines the facts, it becomes apparent that he’s ahead on the scorecards and has gathered himself. Brandon stands a good chance of getting out of this thing alive, he can’t win… But a draw remains in the realm of possible outcomes.

The public’s perception of this particular contest, unfortunately, has been shaped by a series of less than favorable stories in national media outlets.  News purveyors such as the Huffington Post, regularly describe Brandon Austin as “a sophomore accused of sexually assaulting women at two other colleges he attended in the past year.”

On July 28, 2014, the Huffington Post reported that “Austin and two other basketball players were accused of gang raping a female undergrad at the University of Oregon in March. The case did not lead to the district attorney’s pressing charges, but the university did suspend the three indefinitely from the team as players and for up to 10 years from the school as students.”

BRANDON-AUSTIN-PROVIDENCE-facebookBrandon Austin

While condemning the behavior of the players, the story had to acknowledge that “the case did not lead to the district attorney’s pressing charges.”

Yet, a month earlier the same media outlet led with the following headline “Oregon Finds 3 Basketball Players Guilty Of Sexual Assault, Will Remove Them From Campus.”

Huh? Which is it?

Is it possible to simultaneously have no charges filed and be found “guilty”?

Yes… Yes… Yes… Austin has been “accused of sexually assaulting women” at two colleges. But, why not place emphasis on the investigation following the accusations and the resulting outcomes?

A Sexual assault is any involuntary sexual act in which a person is coerced or physically forced to engage against their will, or any non-consensual sexual touching of a person.  By all indications, he had sex with women at two colleges.

Like billions of other men, he likes Pussy…

But, he has NOT sexually assaulted anyone… At least, that’s what the prosecutors and grand jury determined in each instance.

In Providence, the evidence regarding Brandon’s involvement was submitted to a Grand Jury.

The findings are as follows:

“After presentation of the evidence to the Grand Jury with respect to Brandon Austin, it was determined there was legally insufficient evidence to ask the Grand Jury to consider charges against Austin.”

There it is… Plain as day… No charges! Yet, the media insists on finding, crafting, subtly creating a way to label him “guilty.”  Where are the arch-defenders of the process? I’ve seen so many of them on my television… I’ve read their op-eds… I’ve listened to them on talk radio…

In the aftermath of the grand jury decision NOT to indict NYPD police officer Daniel Pantaleo for murder following the strangulation death of Eric Garner, the DA, politicians and much of the mainstream media hailed the fairness of the process.

Staten Island DA Daniel Donovan stated, “No one likes to serve on juries, but they upheld their civic duty and they sat for nine weeks, and they’re the only people that heard all the evidence, and they’re the only people that deliberated…. I think we should respect their decision.”

When revealing the grand jury decision NOT to indict Officer Darren Wilson, St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch declared, “The duty of the grand jury is to separate fact from fiction. After a full, impartial and critical examination of all the evidence and the law and decide if that evidence support filing of criminal charges…”

So… we are told, grand jury decides if there was the commission of a crime. In Providence, the grand jury reviewed the evidence and determined there was no crime.

Bandon’s cases, like others tossed by grand juries across America, is settled. Nothing to see here… Move on…

In Oregon, the Lane County District Attorney concluded that there was “Insufficient evidence to prove charge(s) beyond a reasonable doubt… the conflicting statements and actions by the victim make this case unprovable as a criminal case.”

Again, Brandon was cleared by the legal system. No charges were even filed in either case. He beat all criminal charges…

Despite sensationalistic headlines declaring him “Guilty,” Brandon has NEVER been convicted of any criminal acts.

On the scorecard, Brandon is ahead 2 round to none.  But, all the Ol’ Heads know how this story ends… We all know that Pussy is undefeated…

Legally speaking, the grand jury cleared him in one instance… District Attorney cleared him in another…

As Americans have been repeatedly told after other prominent grand jury and prosecutor decisions NOT to prosecute… “I think we have to respect their decision.”

He has been cleared of all criminal charges, but like General Petraeus, Tiger and President Clinton his reputation has taken a beating.

He’s in his corner right now… He’s listening to his corner men… The cut man is on standby…

I just wish I could find a way to let him, and other young bucks, take advantage of the things I have learned over the course of the 50 years I have spent on this earth… Some things, I wish they didn’t have to learn from experience.  At the top of that list is the fact that…

Pussy is undefeated.

Now Appearing in NYC: Langston Galloway

“Start spreading the news

I am leaving today


I want to be a part of it


New York, New York”

Frank Sinatra, New York, New York


New York Knicks v Washington Wizards
Langston Galloway drives against South Philly’s Rasul Butler in his NBA debut in D.C.

You don’t get to choose your family. You are born into your tribe. However, sometimes your friends become family over time. Because it’s a conscious choice it makes the bond even stronger and more special. Every once in a while you get to witness incredible journeys unfold.

It was the last week of February 1992 and my friend/brother, Geoff Arnold, and I decided to make our way the legendary festival of excess and debauchery known as Mardi Gras. Now, we are from the southern end of Darby Township, a town of 3,000 people, 2 bars about 7 churches and 3 traffic lights. We had always wondered about Mardi Gras.  The closest thing we had back home were basement $1 parties with red lights.  The highpoint of these parties was a slow drag with “that” girl when the DJ played the Whispers. I had just turned 27 and we wanted to experience the lewdness, drunkeness and gluttony first hand. We wanted to see it, touch it and smell it.

We wanted to experience a truly special week.

We decided to head for the bayou. After flying into Houston, we had to catch a prop plane for the short jaunt to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Maaaan listen…. The propeller driven plane scared the shit out of me. It felt like we were flying in Snoopy’s doghouse during one his legendary battles with the Red Baron.

“They have potholes in the sky? What the fuck?”

Fortunately, we reached Baton Rouge. We were a lil’ battered and a lil’ bruised, but we were safe. We were ready to go all out.  We drove to, Geoff’’s sister, Jeralyn’s house. Immediately, her husband Larry Galloway, made us feel right at home… My man from day one…

Larry and LangLangston and his 1st coach, Larry Galloway

That first night we went out to pick up some seafood. So… we enter this huge fish market. It was unlike anything I had ever seen in my life. They don’t do it like that in Philly… Tony’s Seafood Market is the largest purveyor of fresh fresh and crawfish in the Gulf region. Tony’s has been known to sell as much as 50,000 pounds of live and boiled crawfish in one day. I didn’t know places like this existed. It was a seafood mall.

Ever the gracious host, Larry asked me what I wanted. “We down south… Catfish man… I want the catfish.” I watched them take the live catfish out of the tank and expertly slice and dice it in a matter of seconds. Within just a few minutes were on the road back to the house.

Once we reached the kitchen, Larry said “Yo Del, check this out” as he unwrapped the fish. The filets still had a pulse. While Tony’s had removed the heart, the” heartbeat” remained. Beyond fresh, is the only way to describe the catfish. Jeralyn, battered it up and fried the best catfish I have ever had. I remember that day like it was yesterday.

The main reason that day sticks in my memory is because while Jeralyn was preparing the fish there was a little boy propped up on the counter in a baby carrier. He was about 11 weeks old. I liked this kid. He was friendly and outgoing. He wouldn’t stop smiling. He was inquisitive, reaching, grabbing and full of energy.  That boy was Langston Galloway, number 2 for the New York Knicks.

Lang Debut-page-0Langston Galloway during home debut in Madison Square Garden

Yeah… later that week, Geoff and I made our way to New Orleans and, of course, we dove head first into the sinning, partying, drinking, parading, bead throwing and tittie observing that is Mardi Gras. They don’t party like that at the Darby Township Fire House… But, the thing I remember most… the thing that sticks out the most about that week was meeting that friendly, smiling little boy.

Fast forward 23 years, to January 8, 2015, my college buddy, Hansel Canon and I had the distinct pleasure of driving south on 95 to the Verizon Center in Washington, DC and watching that little boy play in his first NBA game against John Wall and the Washington Wizards. Nervous and clearly pressing a bit he managed to score 7 points in 17 minutes. He shot 2-8 from the field, while dishing 3 assists and grabbing 2 rebounds. Still, not a bad first night in da muthafuckin’ league…

We waited to talk to him after the game. The visitors passes he provided gave us access to the area next to the team buses.  As usual, he was unfailingly polite and extremely appreciative while expressing gratitude for coming to see him play his first NBA game. My friend, Hansel Canon, has been to just about everyone of Langston’s college and tournament games.  Like everyone else that has gotten to Larry, Jeralyn and Langston, he has fallen in love with them. He was able to freely express his joy to Langston and they engaged in repeated hugs and celebratory “Black” handshakes. You know, the kind President Obama gave Kevin Durant during his visit with the Olympic team.

Hans amd LangLangston and Hansel Canon after immediately after his NBA debut

For me, it was tough… I was happy but I had to be reserved. Langston said “Man.. you ain’t come to none of my D-League games, but you here at the first NBA game.” Wanting to appear tough and unaffected, I replied “Man… Fuck the D-League.”

I wanted him to think I wasn’t overly impressed with his exemplary performance in that league. I didn’t want him to know I watched every D-League game on youtube… I didn’t want him to know I studied every box score immediately after each game… After all, I never let on that I had done the same thing when he was in Portsmouth and the NBA Summer League…

I had to keep it together… Throughout his life, I’ve always held back on effusively praising him. After this game, I said “You did good, you look good… Now we gotta stay up here.”

“I gotchu!” was his simple reply.

He said those words with his usual confidence. Nothing extra… Just straight talk, “I gotchu!”

While nearly everyone professes a profound admiration for  “swagger”, they are usually referring to a false bravado exemplified by chest beating, unnecessarily boisterous gesturing and endless self-promotion. Lang, on the other hand, oozes “swag” because he really believes he belongs. He makes absolutely no effort to convince you.

He just shows you….

Phil Knight should really holla at the boy, because he exemplifies the Nike tagline “Just Do It” more than any kid I know…

When he said, “I gotchu!” I knew he meant it… I knew was going to prove he belonged.

I had to hurry up and make my way toward the exit… I was about to lose it… I was gonna cry… No way I could let Lang see me crying tears of joy!

“Sheeeeeeeeeit…” as Clay Davis would say, I’m the Ol’ head… He’s the youngbuck… I’m the “Uncle”… He’s the “nephew”… I didn’t want to confuse him… So I had to leave before I started crying like a little beeeeyotch…

The very next night, Geoff calls me and we’re watching Lang playing in a nationally televised game against the Houston Rockets led by the magnificent James Harden… In this, his second game, he plays 31 minutes and scores 19 points. He shot 6-10 from the field, 3-4 from the 3-point line, while snaring 4 rebounds and dishing 3 assists. During the course of the game he had a “here I am” moment when the Rockets failed to put a body on him and he got hold of a missed shot with his right and and flushed it cleanly through the basket with incredible force. Look closely in the background and you will see Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Amare Stoudemire leap from their seats in support of their new teammate. Everybody loves Lang…

Of course, the struggling Knicks have lost both games in which he has played, but there can be no denying that Lang has displayed an NBA level of skill, athleticism and confidence.

As I write, I think about the summers when he came to Philly. For years, I would always make him stand back to back with me and let him know he was still a little boy. Then one summer while in High School, he passed me by… I thought about all the times he would workout in the morning and come to my office to work on SAT/ACT prep even though he was NCAA qualified.

Lang just wanted to do better… just because…

I think about when Lang and his father collected thousands of sneakers for a community service project.  I think about the time the Galloways arranged for a significant donation to the HERO Foundation in North Philadelphia because they wanted to give back to a city that accepted Langston with open arms.

Lang SneakersLarry and Langston Galloway with thousands of donated shoes

I think about the times we talked about his recruiting process. I think about all the times I pretended to be impartial while his uncle was recruiting him. The same brother/friend I went to Mardi Gras with had to grind it out and really recruit the kid that was on the kitchen counter. After 3 state Championships, being named All-State a few times and showing out at Nike’s Peach Jam, Lang was recruited at a pretty high level. Texas A&M, Baylor, LSU and few other high majors were in hot pursuit.

Lang signing with SJULangston signing Letter of Intent to attend St. Joseph’s

I think about all the times I pretended I wanted him to go where he would be happy. I was pump faking… I wanted Lang to go to St. Joseph’s. I wanted to see every game he played. I wanted to be a part of his college experience. I wanted Geoff to land his nephew. But, I always acted like I was indifferent. Truth be told… I wanted to see Langston to win an A10 Championship like his Uncle Geoff. I wanted Langston to place the nets around his neck and hold the trophy high over his head.

Lang and GeoffGeoff Arnold 1986 A10 Champion, St. Joseph’s 2014 A10 Champions

I think about every one of the 1,991 points he scored on City Line Avenue. I think about the time I saw him make 10 straight three-pointers at Hagan. I think about the All-A10 First Team selection, the All-Big 5 Selections and Allstate NABC Good Works Team selection.

Lang nets

Langston Galloway after 2014 A10 Championship Game

I think about him helping my wife do yard work. I think about all the times I busted his ass in golf… I think about him graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sports Marketing.

What I don’t think about… What I don’t worry about is his future with the NY Knicks. For me, that was secured the moment Lang said “I gotchu!”

Larry and Jeralyn have done a phenomenal job with the little boy on the kitchen counter.  Over the years, they always make sure to thank me for supporting Langston. It was an absolute pleasure… I thank them for sharing their son with me and the rest of Philadelphia for four years.

Lang FamilyLangston, Jeralyn (Mom), Larry (Dad) and Lawrence (Brother)

Now appearing in NYC: Langston Galloway! His heart is pumping like that catfish filet from Tony’s… real strong!!

Yo Spike… Tell the Knicks to “Do The Right Thing” and lock my youngin up for the rest of the year!!