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A Former Basketball Star’s New Life in Europe: Our College Pick

Every week, Syracuse University professor Aileen Gallagher helps Longreads highlight the best of college journalism. Here’s this week’s pick:

College athletes who don’t go on to play professionally sometimes continue their career in Europe. And that’s usually the last we hear of them. But the University of Pittsburgh’s Jasper Wilson made good use of a trip to Strasbourg to profile former Pitt basketball star Ricardo Greer. Greer, now 36, does things like throw his kid a birthday party and dispute his salary with his boss. These are adult concerns, beyond dull to most college students. But Wilson saw these moments as part of his narrative, a “whatever happened to” story about a student-athlete who grew up to become a responsible adult who makes a living doing the thing college prepared him to do. Sports journalism is in desperate need of reporters who can identify fresh angles beyond the churn of conflicts manufactured by ESPN and talk radio. Wilson had to go all the way to France, but he found one.

Greer Made Career, Home Playing in France

Jasper Wilson | The Pitt News | November 6, 2013 | 12 minutes (2,928 words)

Professors and students: Share your favorite stories by tagging them with #college #longreads on Twitter, or email links to aileen@longreads.com.


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A high school basketball star’s career derailed by drugs and bad decisions. Jonathan Hargett also says he was offered $20,000 to attend West Virginia (a claim university officials deny):

Hargett wanted to go to Arizona. The Wildcats won the national title in 1997 and had recently had a string of star guards like Miles Simon, Mike Bibby and Jason Terry on their roster. Coach Lute Olson made two trips to watch Hargett in high school, but the Wildcats could not get Hargett to visit their campus. He said that Arizona refused to break N.C.A.A. rules and fly out his mother for a recruiting trip.
But West Virginia put together a more intriguing package for the Hargett family. Mike Hargett’s wife, Joy, said that West Virginia planned on hiring her husband for a low-level staff position, which was allowable under N.C.A.A. rules. Mike Hargett had worked for the West Virginia assistant Chris Cheeks at a Richmond high school years before. Jonathan Hargett did not want to go to West Virginia, but he said that he was offered $20,000 a year to go there and that he committed at Mike’s urging.

‘What Happened to Him?’ — Pete Thamel, New York Times
More from the Times

A high school basketball star’s career derailed by drugs and bad decisions. Jonathan Hargett also says he was offered $20,000 to attend West Virginia (a claim university officials deny):

Hargett wanted to go to Arizona. The Wildcats won the national title in 1997 and had recently had a string of star guards like Miles Simon, Mike Bibby and Jason Terry on their roster. Coach Lute Olson made two trips to watch Hargett in high school, but the Wildcats could not get Hargett to visit their campus. He said that Arizona refused to break N.C.A.A. rules and fly out his mother for a recruiting trip.

But West Virginia put together a more intriguing package for the Hargett family. Mike Hargett’s wife, Joy, said that West Virginia planned on hiring her husband for a low-level staff position, which was allowable under N.C.A.A. rules. Mike Hargett had worked for the West Virginia assistant Chris Cheeks at a Richmond high school years before. Jonathan Hargett did not want to go to West Virginia, but he said that he was offered $20,000 a year to go there and that he committed at Mike’s urging.

‘What Happened to Him?’ — Pete Thamel, New York Times

More from the Times

Now that LeBron James has his first championship ring, his narrative is complete. A brief history:

Finally, after several drama-clogged months, LeBron James announced his intentions. He called a public meeting in the Roman Forum, at the very spot from which Marc Antony had addressed his countrymen after the death of Julius Caesar. (Some found this choice of venue distasteful.) ‘I have decided,’ James declared, ‘to take my tridents to Sicily.’
"This came as a surprise to many: the gladiatorial scene in Sicily was rather provincial, its arena small and poorly attended. There were, however, other dominant fighters in Sicily with whom James was eager to team — a lion named Jade and a dancing bear named Squash. From then on, they fought exclusively as a trio, doing well sometimes and not so well at other times. Spectators around the empire found this all to be rather anticlimactic. Interest in gladiator fighting dwindled, and many scholars believe it is no coincidence that the sport was officially banned, without public outcry, just a few decades later.

"LeBron James Is a Sack of Melons." — Sam Anderson, New York Times Magazine
More from Anderson

Now that LeBron James has his first championship ring, his narrative is complete. A brief history:

Finally, after several drama-clogged months, LeBron James announced his intentions. He called a public meeting in the Roman Forum, at the very spot from which Marc Antony had addressed his countrymen after the death of Julius Caesar. (Some found this choice of venue distasteful.) ‘I have decided,’ James declared, ‘to take my tridents to Sicily.’

"This came as a surprise to many: the gladiatorial scene in Sicily was rather provincial, its arena small and poorly attended. There were, however, other dominant fighters in Sicily with whom James was eager to team — a lion named Jade and a dancing bear named Squash. From then on, they fought exclusively as a trio, doing well sometimes and not so well at other times. Spectators around the empire found this all to be rather anticlimactic. Interest in gladiator fighting dwindled, and many scholars believe it is no coincidence that the sport was officially banned, without public outcry, just a few decades later.

"LeBron James Is a Sack of Melons." — Sam Anderson, New York Times Magazine

More from Anderson

Twenty years later, how Michael, Magic and the NBA’s best players sought to regain U.S. dominance in Olympic basketball:

Nathaniel Butler (official NBA photographer): We were sitting on the baseline. Magic is backing a guy down, and the guy on defense is yelling at his bench, “Now! Now!” And on the bench, one guy’s pulling a camera out of his sock and taking a photo of his teammate.
Hubbard: One time they were playing against Venezuela, and the guy who was guarding Magic kept on saying, “I need your shoes! I need your shoes!”During the game. And Magic goes, “Look, I need my shoes!”

"The Dream Will Never Die: An Oral History of the Dream Team." — Lang Whitaker, GQ
More from GQ

Twenty years later, how Michael, Magic and the NBA’s best players sought to regain U.S. dominance in Olympic basketball:

Nathaniel Butler (official NBA photographer): We were sitting on the baseline. Magic is backing a guy down, and the guy on defense is yelling at his bench, “Now! Now!” And on the bench, one guy’s pulling a camera out of his sock and taking a photo of his teammate.

Hubbard: One time they were playing against Venezuela, and the guy who was guarding Magic kept on saying, “I need your shoes! I need your shoes!”During the game. And Magic goes, “Look, I need my shoes!”

"The Dream Will Never Die: An Oral History of the Dream Team." — Lang Whitaker, GQ

More from GQ

A writer digs into his grandfather’s past and discovers stories about life as a professional basketball player in the 1940s for the Chicago Stags, part of the BAA (Basketball Association of America), which later merged with another league to become the NBA:

Detroit’s coach gave Schadler the score: ‘I have a wife and kids, and I’m keeping this money. I’ll see to it that you get yours at the end of the season.’ Payment never came. It wasn’t just this game—two weeks had passed without Schadler, let alone any of the Vagabond Kings’ eight players, being paid a dime. The team was co-owned by two men, one of whom also owned a car dealership. The car salesman wanted out, and as a parting gift to the remaining owner (given out of guilt, and accepted out of an essential need) the Kings received two limousines. Since they couldn’t afford a bus, this became how they travelled around the country; hundreds of miles at a time, from game to game, in two limos—a confusing symbol for a failing league. Their lodging situation, though, screamed that the end was near. If a game was held in the vicinity of Detroit, team owner King Boring (yes, King Boring) began to shuttle the players to his home to sleep in his game room on air mattresses.

"Grandpa Was a Baller." — Matt Kallman, The Classical
More #longreads from The Classical

A writer digs into his grandfather’s past and discovers stories about life as a professional basketball player in the 1940s for the Chicago Stags, part of the BAA (Basketball Association of America), which later merged with another league to become the NBA:

Detroit’s coach gave Schadler the score: ‘I have a wife and kids, and I’m keeping this money. I’ll see to it that you get yours at the end of the season.’ Payment never came. It wasn’t just this game—two weeks had passed without Schadler, let alone any of the Vagabond Kings’ eight players, being paid a dime. The team was co-owned by two men, one of whom also owned a car dealership. The car salesman wanted out, and as a parting gift to the remaining owner (given out of guilt, and accepted out of an essential need) the Kings received two limousines. Since they couldn’t afford a bus, this became how they travelled around the country; hundreds of miles at a time, from game to game, in two limos—a confusing symbol for a failing league. Their lodging situation, though, screamed that the end was near. If a game was held in the vicinity of Detroit, team owner King Boring (yes, King Boring) began to shuttle the players to his home to sleep in his game room on air mattresses.

"Grandpa Was a Baller." — Matt Kallman, The Classical

More #longreads from The Classical