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August 5th, 2010
08:52 AM ET

“NBA stardom or Harvard degree? Why not both?”

From CNN Saturday and Sunday Morning anchor TJ Holmes:

Which of these names doesn't belong: Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Jeremy Lin, LeBron James:

Chances are you picked Jeremy Lin. All of the people I named are standout players in the NBA, including Jeremy Lin. But, he stands out for different reasons. Of the more than 350 players in the NBA, Jeremy is the only one that's a Harvard graduate.

The only one out of 350.

In contrast, of the nine Supreme Court Justices, four of them are Harvard grads. Jeremy is also the first Harvard grad in the NBA since 1953 and the first Asian-American in 60 years. He was born in the U.S. to parents who migrated from Taiwan. He was a great high school player but didn't get any Division-1 scholarship offers.

He made his way to Harvard, had a stellar college basketball career, but wasn't drafted into the NBA. Jeremy did leave Harvard with an economics degree and took that degree into the one job interview where it wouldn't help him get the job: the NBA summer league. That's where guys literally try to play themselves into a job. He impressed the Golden State Warriors enough that they signed him to a one-year contract this summer.

Don't think the Warriors don't know what they're doing. He's a local kid and grew up in Palo Alto in the Bay area. There's a huge Asian population there, and the team is planning marketing campaigns around him.

Still, no matter what, he had to have the skills to get on the team. And with a degree, he'll have skills to get a jobs after the NBA, unlike some of his fellow players.

Only about 20% of NBA players have a college degree, according to the players union. Maybe that contributes to this number: an estimated 60% of NBA players are broke within five years of retiring, according to a Sports Illustrated report.

It is no small thing to make it to the NBA. Few make it. These guys are amazing athletes. But most never become superstars and aren't in the NBA very long.

So, for them, when they're done in the NBA, what do you think looks better at the top of the resume: "Former NBA Player," or "Degree in Economics, Harvard University?"

Join TJ Holmes weekend mornings in the CNN Newsroom, beginning 6am ET/ 3am PT.

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soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Sam Adams

    Outstanding, this is the type of information I'm always passing to the local youngsters, including my Grands. I shall keep this artical. THANKS!

    August 5, 2010 at 9:16 am |
  2. Southgate Jo

    Financially speaking...NBA stardom is worth several Harvard Degrees. Even the base NBA salary is several times higher than the average mid level executive salary. If he can stay around a while in the NBA, his salary will go much higher. Harvard is a wonderful institution but, the sad fact of life is that the cost of education today is much too expensive. The cost of an education at Harvard or Princeton or Syracuse is totally out of touch with what the average student can pay so, they take out loans. Loans that will haunt them for about a decade. The day of the university is about to become a rare thing...

    August 5, 2010 at 9:37 am |
  3. Rev. Skip Jordan

    Seems smart to me-not everyone can become a sports commentator or product spokesperson. Planning for your future is always a good idea.

    August 5, 2010 at 10:17 am |
  4. Rod

    Wow! Great article! The stats are staggering! I didn't realize that so few players are degreed and over half end up broke. Those aspiring to be pro athletes should definitely know this info.

    August 5, 2010 at 10:23 am |
  5. John Oliver Fowler

    This is a huge human interest story. It is one that would not normally get air time because it is not provocative enough and does not generate sufficient interest to sell ads. But it does have the wow factor and the story is very well written

    August 7, 2010 at 5:15 am |
  6. Billy Ye

    You can't compare Jeremy Lin to any of these other players in the same sentence because he's a rookie starting out at 500k where the other guys are NBA superstars making close to 20 million a year.

    Also, Jeremy Lin's calling to be a church pastor does necessarily make a lot of use of his Harvard economics degree. So, "Former NBA Player" definitely works out better for his true calling down the road.

    August 7, 2010 at 6:46 pm |