Former University of Michigan men’s basketball standout and member of the ‘Fab Five’ Jimmy King writes for Scrap Sports about the data and disappointment surrounding black athletes at powerhouse predominantly white athletic programs.
In a heartfelt narrative, King breaks down the racial and financial disparities created by these institutions, and perpetuated in part by star black athletes who are convinced that they are a necessary stop on the way to professional careers.
But then he drops a bombshell.
I wondered if we would have been called simply the “trendsetters” on a black campus instead of “thugs” on Michigan’s majority white campus? I’ve often thought my athletic, and personal development would have been much better served had I attended an HBCU. The entire Fab Five – all us – seriously discussed in our dormitory one evening about transferring to an HBCU. Looking back now over 25 years removed, we not only could have made history by leading an HBCU to the Final Four (which I’m convinced we could have accomplished), but we could have also made an emphatic statement endorsing the importance of black colleges and proving that Michigan, Duke or Kentucky did not have a monopoly on providing professional opportunities on or off the court.
King’s piece and this revelation, in particular, should be striking to today’s elite athletes at all levels of competition. Nationally-ranked high schoolers are becoming increasingly interested in HBCUs, and college athletes have long developed a transfer pipeline from PWIs to black colleges when career plans don’t pan out.
King admits that he and four formerly fabulous freshmen had a chance to change history and didn’t. That’s easy to say 25 years later, but just as important for today’s black athletes to hear as it was for the Fab Five to even consider back then.
We can only hope that King’s words and today’s turbulent times create more than passing interest in today’s athletes, but a realization of how they can change history, black history, in seismic ways.