NBA Player Turned Public Interest Lawyer?
The worlds of law and professional sports have a long and close history–from pro sports leagues’ unique antitrust status to the outsized impact on pro sports of legendary lawyers such as Edward Bennett Williams (owned the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Redskins when both teams won their leagues’ championships in 1983) and Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis (federal judge who became the first commissioner of baseball). Key contemporary figures with law degrees include: Williams’s protege, Red Sox president Larry Lucchino (pioneer of the retro-styled ballpark revolution); Lucchino’s 1965 Final Four teammate at Princeton, Bill Bradley (U.S. Senator and NBA All-Star); longtime NBA Commissioner David Stern, former NFL MVP Steve Young, and longtime St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa.
Apparently, 36-year-old Detroit Piston Ben Wallace is intent on joining these rarefied ranks, and the NBA lockout may expedite that ambition a bit. I’d give him good odds, too–his road to success has been a remarkable one. Born the tenth of eleven children in rural Alabama, he made it to the NBA out of NCAA Division-II Virginia Union University, and was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year four times (an NBA record he shares with Dikembe Mutombo). Fittingly, he says his motivation for pursuing a law degree is to help at-risk youth. And, in his favor: research shows that former college athletes tend to excel among their peers. I’m certainly rooting for a future Ben Wallace, Esquire.