Gerald was a great athlete. While still in high school many thought he could play pro basketball immediate after graduation. His coach wanted him to go pro immediately.
“It’s a game, Coach Fike,” Gerald said. “It’s only a game.”
“But the game can make you famous and financially secure for the rest of your life,” Coach Fike said.
“Don’t you think you can go on to college and then to the pros and remain a good person?” Coach Fike said. “There are a lot of good people in the pros.”
“That may be so,” Gerald said. “But not the kind of person I want to be. I don’t want to be arrogant and aloof.”
“Gerald,” Coach Fike said. “You are a natural. Many have said you could go pro right out of high school. Going on to college will give you a couple of years to pick up some education and mature. You are destined for greatness. Don’t turn this down and regret it someday.”
“A few years ago my dad said he was having the same discussion with his high school coach,” Gerald said. “My dad took me to a pro game last year. The head coach was his old high school coach. Dad introduced me to him and he asked my dad if I was as good as him. My dad said I was better. He asked dad if he ever regretted not pursuing basketball as a career. My dad told him if he did his son wouldn’t be better.”
“Look, Gerald,” Coach Fike said. “You have both feet firmly on the ground and you‘re too good to fail.”
“I appreciate your confidence, Coach Fike,” Gerald said. “Failure never destroys people, but success crush’s others.”
“Dad’s old coach asked him if he was happy. Dad said absolutely. Then his coach said he had twelve of the unhappiest souls he ever met in the locker room. Their entire public lives are defined on how famous they are while their private lives are a shambles. He told my dad that he thought he was crazy for not going on to play in college, but now admired him. He then turned to me and said if you choose to follow anyone’s footsteps I could follow no one finer than my dad.”