I am a Dubs fan. Always have been, always will be. I pass by Oracle Arena every day to and from work. Traffic is so bad on 880 I often get to admire, at length, the giant hanging posters adorned with your face and the gaudy playoff decorations in blue and gold. Those also happen to be the school colors of the high school nearby where I teach. I have a Baron Davis jersey from We Believe, I grew up watching Run TMC. I giggled each and every time Manute Bol drained a three. When I was a wee lad one of my favorite things to say over and over was Sarunas Marciulionis. I am a Bay Area native, and the Warriors are my team.
And I love you. You would be my favorite player except for I have a soft spot for emotionally unstable crazies, and so I really love me some Draymond Green. But you are amazing and I also give you credit for being an amazing person off the court as well.
But I have to ask you to do me a solid and make sure you don’t ever come visit my high school.
I know the NBA does great things in the community, and I realize the Warriors are no exception. Your boy Klay Thompson is a finalist for the NBA Cares Community Assist Award for having such an impact in and around Oakland this year. The NBA Cares campaign continually shows the league is committed to getting out in the community and helping those in need. When you get involved in soup kitchens, wrap Christmas presents for needy kids, and build homes for the homeless I am inspired. But where those kinds of civic-minded activities have clear benefits, I have to tell you something you probably haven’t heard: Coming to poor high schools like mine isn’t going to help any of these kids out, in fact, it might make things worse.
You see, Steph (I hope you don’t mind if I call you Steph), if you come to my school you will be your usual inspiring, humble, hilarious, kind self and you will say all the right things. But the reason I don’t want you to come has to do with what you won’t say.
You won’t say that since the day you were born you had a professional one-on-one tutor who helped you hone your skills on a daily basis. Your father Dell Curry was an NBA great just like you are after him, but you will not remind the poor kids at my school that they have never had such a wonderful instructor and they never will.
And if you do ever visit my school, you also won’t mention that along with your father’s success came all the monetary rewards NONE of my students have, like three square meals a day; a full sized court and hoop in the backyard; a sense of safety; a mother and a father; top schools, top peers, and community resources. I know you might not think of it like this, but you might as well have come from another planet. But you won’t say that, will you?
I mean, look at Klay Thompson. I wonder if anyone else finds it odd that the best shooting back-court in NBA history were both born with silver balls.
You also won’t talk about the fact that you are a giant man and taller than almost all of my students will ever be. Even though on the court you look like Peter Dinklage in high tops, when you are around real people you are very, very tall. Six-foot-three is nothing to laugh at, and if you did walk into my classroom, you might hit your head on the doorframe. You won the genetic lottery in addition to the monetary one, but you probably won’t be reminding my students that their size alone has already kept them out of competing in most American professional sports.
What you will do is shoot some threes, dazzle everyone with your dimples, high five the homies, and sign some autographs. It will be wonderful. At least, it will seem like that at first. But what you won’t see is the fact that most of these kids don’t have a backup plan for their dream of being you. If you ask the boys on my campus what they are going to be when they get older, the answer will involve a sport. They will claim they are going to play in the NBA or NFL, and seeing you there will make them think they can actually do it.
Because the worst thing you won’t tell them Steph, is that they can’t do it. You won’t tell them that will you? You won’t be able to bring yourself to tell them it is already too late. You won’t tell them about all those years when you were playing in top competitive leagues as a child. You won’t tell them that if they haven’t played organized basketball by the age of sixteen (twelve, really), they have no chance of going pro. You see, the kids I am talking about do not play year-round, they are not in a travelling league, and they have never even heard of a McDonald’s All-American; they just eat McDonald’s two meals a day and have Hot Cheetos in between.
Because by the time they are sixteen, boys in this country, if they have even a tiny, tiny chance of going pro, should already be on the radar of colleges and scouts. They should be the best player not just at their school but in their entire city. Probably their entire state. They should already be 6’3” and growing. You know this and I know this, but the kids who you will inspire with your presence will simply see you and think they too will be MVP one day, even though they don’t even play for our high school team. So instead of doing homework the night after your visit, they will grab their lopsided old ball and go play on the court with their little brother and shoot the ball badly, improbably thinking every time the ball actually does go in it means they are on their way to fame and fortune.
You see Steph, once you leave my school, the boys here are not going to run home and finish that essay, which is one thing they could do about their future that is in their control. Just like if Beyonce came here, the girls wouldn’t head back to their one bedroom apartments filled with two families and begin their science labs. When Beyonce tells them to make sure they pass Algebra, they look at her and ask “What for? Did Algebra help your voice?” Instead they will go home and look in the mirror and wish they were tanner and thicker and a better singer and dancer and they will cry into their mascara. Because that is what celebrity worship does, Steph, and we need these kids to do less of it rather than more. They are already very good at dreaming about being rich and famous, what we need them to do is get a little more realistic about what is in their control. We need less of an emphasis on sports and celebrity in high school, because it is hurting these kids too much as it is.
Really the more I think about it, the crazier it sounds to write to you and tell you NOT to come to my high school. I mean, you are such an awesome guy, you are a family man with a wife and daughter, with another on the way. That video your wife made is hella funny. You are humble, a leader, and clearly our young men need to meet a man like you. Maybe I’m wrong to write this letter.
Or maybe not. When I tell my students they are not going to be professional athletes, they like to say, “Won’t you feel stupid if one of your students does go pro?” And my answer is always the same: “No, because even if they do, that means I will still be 99.9% right. Right now I am one thousand for one thousand.” Steph, you and I know they have a better chance of winning the lottery, but no one seems to tell them these things but me. Would this letter make you feel better if I told you I discourage the California Lottery from giving inspirational speeches at my high school as well? If I wrote them a letter, would anyone think I was out of line? Probably not.
At risk of making Dub Nation mad at me, because I know how we can get, I don’t want you to think it has anything to do with you personally, or the team (I will be screaming every time you hit a three all throughout the playoffs). It’s me, not you. I mean, you are the man, and I am just a teacher–no one really. The truth is, every person on earth would probably get something out of meeting you in person. For you symbolize everything people in this country value most, you are the epitome of all we hold dear, you are the pinnacle of humanity: You are good at a sport.
— Matt Amaral, Berkeley (teach4real.com)