Witty Wednesday-Is Reading Fundamental?

Thanks to the homey @MsRasberry I came across this article.  If you don’t want to read it (or haven’t read it), it’s regarding University of Connecticut basketball player Kemba Walker, who read a book for the first time, cover to cover, just a few weeks ago at the age of 20.  Yes, you read correctly.  I don’t know if that includes children’s books, but regardless, this isn’t necessarily something of which to be proud.  Oh, did you get the title of the book?  It’s Forty-Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall and Redemption of a Black Athlete  by William C. Rhoden.  Ironic, isn’t it???

So let’s discuss-This young man, who is graduating college a year early to enter the 2011 NBA draft, has gone through 12+ years of school without reading a book.  Even after reading the book, Walker still wants to enter the draft.  Walker attends a higher institution of learning and was admitted into this college without having read a book.  I’m not sure about you guys, but I don’t know how many book reports I had to do growing up, but I read every book (well, except that one time when I got Cliff’s Notes…)  In any event, this is disturbing on so many levels!  What most are wondering is did Kemba choose not read or can he not read?  I would like to say maybe he didn’t choose to read since he was able to get through Rhoden’s book. 

Did Walker get pushed through school for his athletic prowess and not because he did well in his classes?  It’s so disheartening to see another young Black athlete get treated this way.  And it’s like this situation is a double-edged sword.  While he’s graduating a year early, he obviously can’t be a dummy because he’s getting his degree, right?  Or is this just another example of some young kid wanting to play professionally a little too quickly?  Who’s to stop this vicious cycle?  Or will it go on forever, as long as their are sports fans with the means and money to continue to see these young Black bucks playing for dollars?  Are we teaching our children that as long as you are a star on the baseball diamond, basketball court, or football field, you don’t need to read-just do well playing your game and you’ll get a free ride to play college ball then move on to play in the big leagues.  If this is what we’re teaching, we need to come up with a new lesson plan.  Until next time, I’m just a Southern girl…in the city.


  1. READ CAREFULLY. He said it was the only book he had ever FINISHED. He read other books, but didn’t finish them. Cut the brother some slack. At least he went to college. Kemba is going to be making millions of dollars in a few months. Why would he stay in school? He can always go back and get his degree.

    • Ok, Jabari, you’re right. It was the first book in high school and college that he finished. And all the blame shouldn’t be placed on him; it should also be placed on his parents and his teachers.

      And if you had read my entire post, he IS graduating from college-a year early! 😉 But he was some coursework and an internship to finish before he can get his degree, which he’ll do over the summer.

  2. This is sad, but I’m not surprised. Many young men, and young people in general, hate reading. They read just enough to pass a test. It doesn’t reflect as much on his ability to read or even his ability as a student as it does on his work ethic. It’s easy to do things that you love; your work ethic really shines through when it comes to things you struggle with or don’t like to do but do because you have to. Depending on his major, he may not have been called upon to finish too many books, but rather read chapters of information here or there. He could also be exaggerating because for some misguided reason, he thinks it’s uncool to read. I’d be interested to know if he read that book of his own free will or not.

    I have no problem with people graduating early to pursue careers in professional sports if they did well and earned a degree that they can fall back on. If you are smart enough to finish early with the course load that entails in addition to being an athlete, more power to you.

    What I didn’t like was the ability some athletes had to enter certain sports straight from high school. It’s not much better now, either. I worry about their skills acquistion as a whole, not just as an athlete. There are so many skills and lessons you learn as a college student to help you transition into adulthood that a lot of athletes miss, either because of leaving school early or because of the huge commitment athletics require. They often miss out on getting degrees that provide them with a back up plan should their career be ended by injury or they end up a bust and not a star athlete. Many miss the skills of fiscal responsibility and squander their fortunes. I hope this young man knows what he’s doing and is going about his future in a way that will benefit him in the long run.

    I also hope he reads some more books!

  3. I honestly concur with you Elle! I’m having a hard time with a lot of the stuff that is going on with our community and the people within it. We have gotten so capitalistic that we don’t care about the intangible things that life has to offer! There was a time when we held education with high regards and from Jabari’s comment, it appears that money has more clout than education. Secondly, how in the world does a student from the University of Connecticut NOT COMPLETED one book before now. Are you serious? What schools did he go to? His grades could not have been that well… Because I know I had 4 years of English/Literature in high school and I know in ALL of those classes, I had to BUY and READ at minimum of ONE book in each. That would put me at 4 COMPLETED books by the time I entered college. I hope for the continued growth and development of the black community that we start to put more emphasis on the quality of education our children are receiving, the contributions they will make to our community and the greater society, and less focus on bling bling, big booty *&#^@#(, and money!

    • You do not have to finish a book to do well in college or school in general. I didn’t finish a book as an undergrad or in grad school and I always had above 3.2 GPA. Money isn’t more important than education, but turning down millions of dollars is foolish in my eyes. The chance to do so may not present it self again. He can always go back and finish his education.

  4. First of all, I read the entire post. I think any one who is hating on this young man has really missed the point! He could have done a lot worse! There are many black millionaires in professional sports who could care less about earning a college degree (much less read an “entire” book) I am impressed with this young man. Have you seen how soft spoken he is when interviewed; how he thinks about his responses to questions before he speaks? Find someone else to pick on. Leave Kemba Walker alone! He’s a leader and he’s set ambitious goals for himself! I pray he’s gonna inspire a whole new generation of young black student-athletes! Go Kemba!

    • Thanks for commenting, Mr. Brookins. My concern with his not completing the book is akin to what ASimpleView brought up. How did he make it this far in school without finishing a book? And I’m not picking on him; I’m just pointing out that more focus is given to his athletic ability than his education, and that is a problem. Instead of teaching our kids how to play basketball, we need to teach them how they can own the baskbetball team. And look at the NFL; they’re on lockout. And look who owns the teams-Caucasians. And who makes up most of the players in the NFL? Blacks. The same thing can happen in the MLB or the NBA. But I’m getting off track.

      I’ll end by saying that more emphasis needs to be placed on learning in class and reading than playing ball. What happened to the days of children having to finish their homework before they can play outside? And yes, Kemba is an excellent player, but who’s to say he’s going to get drafted? Yes, he can be an inspiration to other student-athletes, but he needs to set an example for not only being a great athlete but a great student.

      • And thank you for allowing me to comment, Elle. I absolutely agree with all that you point out that’s wrong with our people’s ranking of education (as it continues to remain far below the importance of sports). With that said, let’s look at Kemba as a success and not a failure. Let’s celebrate his achievements (despite his courageous disclosure regarding reading a book cover to cover). Let’s look at his effort as a glass half full and not a glass half empty. I’m simply trying to point out that I see Kemba representing a fresh new perspective to the black student-athlete. The kid stayed in school. For what? To get an education and his college degree! If only one of the next kids aspires to read more books and get a complete education, I believe Kemba’s experience has established him as a role model. I predict that Kemba has more to offer us, in his lifetime, than basketball.

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