Jalen Rose is more than a former NBA player or one of the more popular NBA analysts, he is also the founder of a charter high school in Detroit, so his focus is also on how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting his students.
Rose opened the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy in 2011 in northwest Detroit, and he has continued to impact the school’s growth.
“I was actually just talking to my assistant about our school and how we were making sure the students had meals,” he said. “You see so many people talk about this on TV that don’t really know what’s going on. It’s kind of like playing in the NBA and being in the huddle and being founder of a school, on the front line. It’s frustrating because the narrative that all students are learning via the Internet is inaccurate.”
Rose said it’s incorrect that students can learn just as well at home and that every household is equipped for home-schooling.
“You start to take things for granted, like Internet service, and actually having a computer if not multiple computers in the home, and having a cable connection,” he said. “A lot of scholars that we serve come from the environments where we were initially sending packets home for the students to try to get their lessons. It’s really something I spent a lot of time and a lot of energy on, along with still being able to do my job every day, [on ESPN’s] ‘Jalen & Jacoby.’ ”
Rose said he has faced challenges with the school, and he remains determined to bring a quality education to those from disadvantaged communities.
“It’s unfortunate that in our country the quality of your education is determined by your zip code,” Rose said. “And so the dynamics of the students that we serve, like when you start to have means in life, being able to pay your bills on time, take care of your family, then you’re able to do things that a lot of other people take for granted. Our scholars are better off in school than [home-schooling] in a lot of cases, being exposed to so many different things in their neighborhood. School becomes a safe haven in a lot of ways because they’re there eight hours.”
Rose, who played three years at Michigan and was part of the famed “Fab Five,” has been an open critic of the NCAA. The NCAA voted to allow players from spring sports another season of eligibility after their seasons were canceled because of the coronavirus. Rose said that should extend to winter sports.
The NCAA had to cancel its basketball tournaments, meaning there will be no champions this season.
“If you’re on the outside looking in, you wouldn’t know the NCAA is listed as a 501(c)(3) corporation, a nonprofit,” Rose said. “How about that? That’s the American dream right there. For the way they’ve been able to operate without having to compensate the athletes directly, I think it furthers their product to do it because you’re going to have more experienced players and teams playing collegiate basketball. Teams like Dayton and San Diego State, they had a legit chance to be the kind of team that could cut down the nets this year.”
Rose said he thinks the NBA season can be salvaged, but it will be need to be pushed into late summer, with the 2020-21 season starting in perhaps December.
“The imperfect storm is going to be is when this pandemic lifts and we’re able to get people to function freely,” he said. “Each person is going to look their best because everybody is going to be eating right and getting in shape, and then we’re going to realize we still have to deal with the physical depression our country is going to be in for a long time.”
Rose also suggested the NBA pair with the WNBA for doubleheaders and same-day games to boost the WNBA brand and also bring in a more diverse group of fans.
“First off, basketball is a summer game, and for a lot of us growing up that’s when you played because you didn’t have school,” Rose said. “And summer is when kids don’t have school, so that’s an opportunity for them to attend more games. And you can try to help the popularity of the WNBA. This is a chance to reset the schedule.”
During this sports hiatus, the Rose-directed “Fab Five” documentary has been aired several times. Rose was asked what he would change, if anything, about that production. Former Fab Five member Chris Webber refused to be interviewed for the documentary, and Rose and Webber, also an NBA analyst, have had much-publicized differences over the years.
“The only change would be to get a 2011 interview from C-Webb,” Rose said. “Other than that, it was the bible. I wanted to have a mob-style ending with lobster and champagne and wine and us having on zoot suits. We didn’t win the championship, but we won the game of life.”
Rose said he is in contact with Webber, and there will be plans to privately settle their differences. The relationship began defrosting after Fab Five member Juwan Howard was named head coach at Michigan last summer.
“We’re in contact currently and we’re brothers,” Rose said of Webber. “So I always feel like anything that we need to say needs to be face to face, eyeball to eyeball, without any distractions, without any hype, without any camera. That’s the big-boy way to do that. That’s my brother.”
And finally, Rose feels the Fab Five, whose Final Four banners were removed because of NCAA violations, deserve more recognition from the University of Michigan.
“None of our jerseys are retired, but one of us is the coach of the team,” Rose said. “I watch a lot of college basketball, I see their numbers get retired, and I’m happy for them. I did three years at Michigan, they have to do one black banner, put the maize and blue on the outside of it, and put the five numbers up there and still let the people wear the numbers. Make it a Fab Five banner.
“I hope it doesn’t take something to happen to one of us in order for it to take place. And the Basketball Hall of Fame, too, we can’t get a plaque in there? Give us our flowers while we’re still here.”
READING IS FUNDAMENTAL
Kanter making use of his time
Celtics center Enes Kanter made himself available to the media this past week, and he has a big-picture approach to the season being suspended and said he is using his time to improve himself off the floor. The season was suspended March 11 and there is no timetable for a return.
Like all NBA players, the Celtics are not allowed into the team’s practice facility and can only participate in personal workouts. Kanter said he’s been doing a lot of reading since the Celtics’ quest for the No. 2 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference was put on hold.
“Basketball players always complain about how busy the schedule is even like in the summertime, charity work, basketball camps,” Kanter said. “But invest in yourself, educate yourself. I watched a lot of documentaries, read a lot of books, because I obviously can’t go meet with some people. I cannot go outside, but I feel like this is the time to sit down and just do something different. The best thing you can do is just educate yourself.”
The Celtics were 43-21, had just won at Indiana, and were preparing for a showdown with first-place Milwaukee when the season was suspended.
“That’s the sad part. If I was on a team and we weren’t making the playoffs, I’d be like, ‘The season is over, we weren’t going to make the playoffs.’ But we really have a good chance to go out there and win a championship,” Kanter said. “When they canceled this, I was like, ‘Man, this is tough because we can go out there and win a championship.’ It was definitely tough.”
Several players have taken to posting videos on social media encouraging people to stay at home and exercise social distancing. Kanter also has suggested fans remain patient for an NBA return.
“The championships and all sports is important, but safety comes first,” he said. “We actually have conversations and we have educators or influencers and we have a Zoom conference and that person giving us a team, and every team member is joining it. It’s been good.”
The Celtics are holding weekly meetings on Zoom led by coach Brad Stevens. Kanter said they are helping bringing the team closer.
“We’re building chemistry,” he said. “Of course, before we were hanging out and eating together, but now we are worried for each other. We are worried about, how is his family? How are his kids? How are his mom and dad doing? Let me call him and talk to him. That builds a stronger chemistry.”
When will the NBA return? No one knows, but the league is making plans for a summer comeback. But for now, players are like the rest of us. They are staying home and waiting for improvement.
“I think the NBA is doing everything to not only keep us safe, and, of course, we want to go out there and play, but it’s about how can we have a better, cleaner future?” Kanter said. “It’s tough to wait and I feel like the message is be patient and stay clean and stay at home.”
An evening he won’t forget
During this time, we have been encouraged to share some of our more cherished career experiences, and there is one that stands out.
It was the night of Feb. 25, 1997, and I was a young reporter at the Los Angeles Daily News covering the Clippers, my first year on a pro sports beat. Back then, the Clippers were considered barely professional, had an eccentric owner in Donald Sterling, and played at a second-rate home, the LA Sports Arena.
But for me, the Clippers beat was heaven. I had covered high school sports for five years, so this was a considerable reward. And while my contemporaries would chide me for being too serious about covering a laughingstock, I relished the job. I enjoyed the basketball.
The Clippers didn’t have many celebrities sitting courtside like the Lakers, but they did have Kadeem Hardison and Darryl Bell in the front row each night. They were stars in the TV series “A Different World.”
On this night, the Clippers were hosting the 76ers. Philadelphia, with No. 1 overall pick Allen Iverson, was starting a four-game road trip. It would be my first time seeing Iverson in person, and I was excited. He had been dynamic so far (although I eventually voted for Stephon Marbury for Rookie of the Year).
It was a Tuesday night and there wasn’t a large crowd. The official attendance was 7,247, so it was a normal night.
But one fan sitting behind the basket near the 76ers’ bench made the night anything but normal. He was a large man with a maroon corduroy jacket and a cane.
It was Notorious B.I.G. He was the No. 1 rapper in the world at the time, with his second CD, “Life After Death,” waiting to be released. Biggie was at the game to see Iverson, one of his celebrity buddies.
This was the heat of the East Coast-West Coast rap rivalry, and five months after Tupac Shakur was murdered in Las Vegas. Biggie was one of the symbols of East Coast rap, and a figure of the war. So him being in LA was a story in itself.
Knowing this, I wasn’t sure what the crowd reaction would be. Sitting at the scorer’s table, I saw some kids approach Biggie for an autograph, and his security guard shooed them away for the time being, telling them to come back.
“Halftime, halftime,” he kept saying.
So I thought to myself: "Ain’t no way this superstar rapper is going sign all these autographs at a Clippers game.”
As the second quarter was winding down, kids began coming from all areas of the arena and lining up the stairwell behind the basket. The line ran through the concourse.
Again, I thought, “Ain’t no way he’s going to sign all these autographs.”
Amazingly, Notorious B.I.G. stayed in his seat at halftime and signed for every last person. He didn’t move, and the session went into the third quarter. Biggie signed them all. That’s when I became a fan.
Friends have said to me over the years, “You didn’t try to get his autograph? You didn’t try to meet him?”
Notorious B.I.G. was a star, but I had seen plenty of celebrities at basketball games, and, of course, no one knew he would be murdered in LA two weeks later.
After the game, I remember seeing Biggie standing outside the locker room, waiting for Iverson to come out. He stood there calmly, without the entourage, and I had gained a great deal of respect for him over the past few hours.
On March 9, he was killed, the final, fatal blow in the East Coast-West Coast rap battle. But to say Biggie didn’t have love in LA was inaccurate. I remember those kids lining up for his autograph. They weren’t taking sides. They saw a rap superstar, an eventual legend, and appreciated him.
A tragic twist to this story was the person who got Biggie the tickets for the game was Clippers guard Malik Sealy, who was a childhood friend of the rapper in New York. Sealy died three years later in Minneapolis when a wrong-way drunk driver ran into Sealy’s SUV when he on his way home from Kevin Garnett’s 24th birthday party.
Jae Crowder contributed $15,000 to ISlide, a sandal company for which he was an initial investor during his time with the Celtics. The money will go directly to the company’s employees, who have been affected by the coronavirus. “Now that I think about it, I did it out of the kindness of my heart,” he told the Globe. “I know it’s a tough time for a lot of people around the world and I don’t want to seem as if I am doing this for publicity. You tell all the people around the world to continue to help one another during this time. We can and will get through this difficult time.” … The NBA was set to begin NBA Africa this spring before it was one of the first sports initiatives canceled because of the pandemic. There have been no announcements about when the league will begin, but it’s likely to be the spring of 2021. NBA Africa could be key to developing prospects. The NBA has long wanted to tap into the talent in the continent … With the Olympics postponed until 2021, it opens a potential new pool of players vying to make Team USA. Now, a healthy Klay Thompson will be a candidate, along with Zion Williamson after his second NBA season, and other second-year players, such as Ja Morant. Celtics Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown will be established for another year and could see their chances to make the team increase. Also, there will be a question of whether players such as LeBron James, who will be 36 in December, will elect to play after what would be his 18th NBA season. The good news for Team USA is the extra year it will give executive director Jerry Colangelo to select the team after the failure in the 2019 World Cup. The team had to patch together its roster because many players backed out because it was too close to the Olympics … The WNBA announced this past week it is postponing its scheduled May 15 start date. The WNBA would prefer to conclude in September or October, allowing players to then play overseas. The best option may be reducing the 34-game schedule or squeezing more games into a smaller window.
(Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.)