I just got an email about Born Ready. It's an online video series that will document the ongoing junior season of 17-year-old New York City high-school point guard Lance Stephenson in near real time.
Wow, that is really something.
One of the challenges New York City players face is the pressure of being famous. When players like Lamar Odom, Felipe Lopez, Stephon Marbury, and Sebastian Telfair are at the tender ages of 16 or 17 they face the same stresses and strains of top NCAA or even NBA players: big mean headlines when they misbehave even slightly, big angry crowds who know a lot about them at road games, and big future money on the line if they do things right.
Some exceptional kids can handle it without going a little crazy. But many can not. It's enough to make you cast a longing eye at the European system -- where promising teenagers are given small salaries, and whisked off into comprehensive club development programs to learn the fundamentals away from the spotlight.
I actually have a pet theory that the later in life you can become famous -- the more developed you are when everyone around you starts acting crazy -- the better your chances of taking it in stride.
In the U.S., before young players know much of anything about life, they face the reality that they are valuable media properties -- entitled to all kinds of privelege -- while having to keep a wary eye on NCAA rules that essentially prohibit them from being business people at all.
Oh, and they're also humans, who at this age probably ought to be learning a few life lessons by trying, failing, and being surrounded by positive role models and supportive family and friends. That's tough when you're young and famous, and in many cases surrounded by people who will do just about anything to share in your future wealth.
So, when somebody says they're going to put a high school kid like Lance Stepheson in the middle of the media spotlight, I pause and wonder: is this a good idea? Is this going to be handled carefully? Is this about documenting and learning from an unusual experience -- or is it about filling the media's ever-present need for more and younger celebrities? Is this kid going to get the kind of big head that can cause him trouble? (It's normal for teenagers to think they know everything, but it's just weird for adults to act like they agree.)
The press release about the series sounds like it will address some of those kinds of issues:
... the drama will not only unfold on the court -- where Stephenson dominates -- but will also reveal the complexities of his personal life off the court in an environment where the outcome is far less predictable.
I look forward to watching something like that. Let's assume Lance Stephenson can handle it all and will soon be the next LeBron James or [insert name of star here]. It is a fascinating process, and maybe we can all learn something.
But the trailer sure gives the impression that the producers of this series are hell-bent on proving that Stephenson has already arrived. The trailer, below, includes the following line:
Watch as he enters his junior year at Lincoln High School ... Determined, with an "I will not lose" swagger. Watch Lance as he blinds us with his speed, displays uncanny marksmanship, and rises above the crowd again, again, and again.
What if Lance Stephenson sees that and believes that he is all that? What if he believes that at 17 his work is essentially done? What if he gets hurt? There was a lot of pressure on this kid. And having his own TV show sure doesn't reduce the pressure any. Hopefully, he can handle it. Either way, I guess, it should be interesting TV.