I think anyone who picks up a basketball imagines themselves making the winning shot with time running out in the last game of the NBA finals. At least I think young people imagine that, before reality sets in. For all but a tiny few, that's as close as any of us will get. It goes without saying that we always make the shot.
But what of those few with the size and talent to play with the big boys? First of all, I can't imagine what their high school games are like, they must dominate the games. But is there anything wrong with jumping straight to the pros? Now we all think everyone should go to college, but college isn't necessarily for everyone. And let's be honest, the college experience for athletes is far different than for the average student. Players complain that colleges make millions off of them, and they get nothing. When we were talking about this story last night, one of our staffers said that the graduation rate for basketball players at one major sports power was zero for the last several years.
While we may still raise an eyebrow about so many players wanting to go to the pros straight from high school, no one questions anymore the college player who leaves after one or two years. Don't these kids, and they are kids albeit large ones, have a right to work wherever and whenever they want? What is the harm?
At the same time, we've seen the problems that tennis players and gymnasts have had when they compete at such young ages. Add millions of dollars to that mix, and you do have to wonder if there shouldn't be some sort of limitation.
So tonight we'll follow a couple of players who will be very nervous tonight when the draft begins: one who is expected to be the top pick, one who probably won't make it, and the top college player who stayed in college for the full four years, and is now facing questions of whether he is over the hill. And Ted will be interviewing Alonzo Mourning, the all-pro center for the Miami Heat, and Jermaine O'Neal, a starter for the Indiana Pacers five years after coming straight to the league from high school. Even for non-sports fans, it should be fun.
And finally, a confession. In my email yesterday, I referred to "THE Ukraine." Now that it is independent, the country is simply "Ukraine." The "THE" is a remnant of the old Soviet terminology. So to all of you who wrote in, you got me, I was wrong. It won't be the last time.
And one more note. A lot of you wrote in after our broadcast on Eva Cassidy, the singer who found fame after she had passed away. Our plan is to rebroadcast that program the night of July 4th, so tell your friends and set your VCR's.
Leroy Sievers is executive producer for Nightline.