Following the 1991-92 basketball season at USC (where I was an assistant coach), then-junior swing man Harold Miner, a fabulous basketball player, had a difficult decision to make. It was whether to return for his senior campaign or leave school for the NBA draft. Our head coach, George Raveling, had done his due diligence and found out that Harold was a surefire lottery pick, going possibly as high as seventh (he wound up the twelfth pick).
Someone, somewhere, at some time had stuck the moniker, Baby Jordan, on Harold years earlier. He was about the same height and build as Michael, jumped like him (he won the NBA’s Slam Dunk competition twice) and had a shaved head. But, we all, including Harold, knew he was not another MJ, nor was anyone else. That kind of attention was both unrealistic and unfair. It really didn’t matter where he was picked, however, because Nike offered him sixth pick money, i.e. if he was selected in the sixth slot, he got that money, BUT if he were picked anywhere lower, Nike would make up the difference between the money he was offered and what the player drafted sixth got. So, when he dropped to #12, he still received #6 money, what #12 got (all rookie contracts are preset), plus the difference between that and #6 which was picked up by Nike.
The reason I share this bit of history is to show that Harold Miner was a sensational college basketball player. When he was deciding, one factor in favor of him returning to school was he absolutely loved campus life. It was a real blast for him to go to the student center the day after a big game and hear his fellow students reliving the game and some of the jaw dropping moves from the night before. Or hear praise from a professor. Or a custodian. Didn’t matter. He found it invigorating.
Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M is the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. This year, the school has announced that, because it is such a distraction whenever Johnny Football shows up on campus, they are allowing him to take his classes online. Now, I am by no means comparing Harold Miner’s popularity in LA with Johnny Manziel’s in College Station. First of all, Miner’s situation was twenty years ago. And it’s an apples vs. oranges comparison because Los Angeles is a pro city and SC is a football school. Yet, at 6′6″, black with long arms and a killer body, people knew who Harold Miner was. Few would pass by without making a comment or asking for an autograph or picture.
Manziel related the following story when he received the Davey O’Brien Award as the nation’s top quarterback, according to Bernie Augustine of the New York Daily News. “I went one day — it was a small class of 20 or 25 — and it kind of turned into more of a big deal than I thought.” Regarding the decision to take classes online, he said, “It just happened to work out where it was good after the football season with all of the stuff going on. It was a good time not to have to worry about being on campus and some other things, too.”
At his press conference declaring for the draft, Harold Miner made reference to how much he was going to miss not only the guys on the team, but also his fellow classmates. He realized that experience would be gone once he became a professional - and he’d never again get to feel it.
Now, Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel has become so popular in College Station that the Texas A&M quarterback can no longer attend classes with the rest of the student body. Someday, he might wish he had found a way.
It’s a shame that:
“Some people know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.”