My all time favorite basketball player and Los Angeles Laker great has won an Oscar for best animated short for his creation Dear Basketball. The short film was originally a poem Bryant wrote when he decided to retire from pro basketball. Maybe there are a hell of a lot of Laker fans who are voters as the Academy has been accused of having a bias towards films about Hollywood. I don’t believe the Oscars used their home court advantage in this situation as Dear Basketball is an exceptional piece of work that definitely deserved the honor.

During Bryant’s acceptance speech he cleverly made a comment of how he could not believe he was capable of such a feat because as an athlete he is just supposed to shut up and dribble. This of course was a rebuttal to journalist Laura Ingraham’s inflammatory comments to basketball player Lebron James for speaking about politics and economic issues that are relevant to his ethnicity in society during a recent interview.

I personally find the shut and dribble comments repulsive because it states that if you are an athlete that you are not allowed to speak on political issues. Which is what a great deal of powerful individuals would like because of their significant stroke and worldwide reach. Shut up and dribble is an ignorant comment that is derived from a place of entitlement. Or even more scary, the notion that Ingraham believes she is above James. As if because of who she is she can tell a grown man what to do. NOTHING should make Laura Ingraham more qualified to speak on politics than Lebron James or any athlete. Especially since Lebron Jame has been nothing but a role model and has not been in any type of trouble or controversy during the entirety of his career.

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IMAGE VIA NYPOST.COM

Ingraham did invite James on her show to debate the matter but the four-time league MVP and three-time champion declined with class. I believe this is a wise decision because why waste your time to argue with someone whose opinions are never going to change. Ingraham was salivating at the opportunity just so she can utilize the biggest pro athlete in the world today so she could boost ratings and notoriety for herself. Not to try to see things from James perspective so that the two could land on common ground.

One of the most outspoken NBA basketball players of all time and current media spokesperson Charles Barkley opened up on the controversy during his opening monologue during Saturday Night Live. Barkley claimed that he is more than a retired athlete. He is now a sports analyst, author and entrepreneur. Also he said that he has been saying whatever the hell he wanted for the past 30 years and look how far he has got. His advice to James is to never shut up because opening your mouth on various topics is how to continuously stay successful.

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IMAGE VIA SPORTINGNEWS.COM

The Shut up and dribble statement is not only naive but hypocritical. Often times the media looks upon celebrities and athletes to be the shining example for the younger generation. Whether these public figures asked for it or not it is pretty much in the fine print when they sign a contract. The moment an athlete is caught doing something out of character or makes a mistake they are dragged by the media and are immediately painted as a false idol. Celebrities are an image of public perception and we can’t look at them as a gold standard or to help raise our youth. That is why I find it admirable whenever an athlete does decide to utilize their platform to speak up, donate time, money or effort in any types of social or economic issues. For people who look up to athletes they want to know their opinions on these subjects because they live in this country too and there are a vast majority that also come from similar situations.

For numerous athletes who are getting paid millions of dollars, they are still not making nearly a fraction compared to their team owners. The concept of a dumb jock who just plays a sport and is unaware to the inner workings of the corporations is far too common. Athletes not only should be saving their money but also learning how to invest it so that they can continue to be wealthy long after they are done playing a sport. It is also great when athletes use their money to donate to charities and give back to the community. Take Magic Johnson for example. He pretty much owns a portion of Los Angeles after his playing career with numerous movie theaters, Starbucks and other business endeavors. As well as Michael Jordan who has turned his shoe brand into an empire. These former athletes set the blueprint on how to utilize income and stature for civilization.

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IMAGE VIA PINSTAKE.COM

Kobe Bryant claims the aspect that drives him most is that he wants to make the next twenty years of his life greater than his twenty year NBA basketball career. He is clearly off to a great start. I am pretty sure when some of Bryant’s first film projects such as The Musecage (Which changed my life by the way) were released, many  thought that he was just dealing with the chronic effects of boredom after he retired from the NBA. Now he has an academy award to show off for all of his hard work. Instead of just taking his money and relaxing during his retirement, Bryant has made the decision to utilize his influence to inspire others.

Kobe Bryant’s phenomenal accomplishment I believe will spark other athletes to follow their dreams and do more even if they are judged and made fun of for their endeavors. Shut up and dribble is a negative mindset that only holds humanity back. Athletes provide so much hope to inner city children who do not see any options and look at their success as something to strive for. The stakes are far too high and there are way to many economic issues that plague communities for anyone with a platform who has a connection to be silent on these matters.

-Caleb Harris

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