Why you should care
Many of the players idolized by the kids on city courts are not getting their start there.
We appear to have reached a point where the path to professional basketball has officially relocated from inner-city playgrounds to prestigious high schools. Stars Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Ty Lawson and Rajon Rondo are all alums of Oak Hill Academy, a private Baptist boarding school in Virginia. Or consider the following schools and their famous alumni:
Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy
Player: Dwight Howard. School factoids: Years of highly-ranked boys’ and girls’ basketball teams, located in an affluent suburb
St. Vincent-St. Mary High School
Player: LeBron James. School factoids: Top-notch Catholic prep school with 97% of students headed to college
Palo Alto High School
Player: Jeremy Lin. School factoids: Stanford professors send their kids there. An anonymous donor pitched in $20 million for athletic facilities last year. Oh, and James Franco went there.
Player: Kobe Bryant. School factoids: Located in a tiny Philadelphia suburb where the school district spent $210 million on its two high schools in 2010.
Oklahoma Christian School
Player: Blake Griffin. School factoids: Faith-based college prep school in Edmond, OK, ranked #1 “perfect suburb” by CNBC in 2010
In fact, if you look at the backgrounds of the 24 Americans who made the 2013 NBA All-Star game, 19 of them attended a private school or academy or a high-achieving suburban high school. As the New York Times just noted, growing up in a wealthier neighborhood is a major, positive predictor of reaching the NBA for both black and white men — and it is estimated that black NBA players are about 30 percent less likely than average black males to be born to an unmarried or teenage mother.
79 percent Percentage of 2013 NBA All-Stars who attended a private or elite public suburban high school
All of which makes you wonder: Are the current inhabitants of the NBA really the best players to be found or just the ones who were able to find the right platform to launch their careers? How many other NBA-worthy, urban playground legends like Connie Hawkins or Rafer Alston might be lurking out there somewhere?
The next LeBron James may be out there playing pickup games on a netless rim — but will we discover him if he doesn’t pass through a door marked “Academy”?