Shabazz Muhammad's Age Isn't the Real Concern

Haddon AndersonAnalyst IMarch 22, 2013

Muhammad's upbringing is unfortunate.
Muhammad's upbringing is unfortunate.Jeff Gross/Getty Images

News recently broke, according to the Los Angeles Times, that UCLA freshman sensation Shabazz Muhammad is actually 20, not 19.

This creates controversy regarding his draft stock, because the extra year could potentially deter some suitors.

This isn't the real concern with this developing story, however. This L.A. Times article by Ken Bensinger unpacks the trajectory of Muhammad's basketball career—a career driven by his father.

Muhammad will soon become an NBA player (and very likely a quality one), which will result in his dad's dream coming true. But the route in which this happened is unfortunate.

Muhammad's father, Ron Holmes, has been on a quest for a long time. The goal? To raise successful athletes, glorified icons in culture.

In the 1980s, Holmes himself played basketball at USC, but he never made it to the pros. He didn't want to witness this same conclusion in his children's careers.

Therefore, he first found a wife who could help him breed jocks. Faye Paige was a point guard, sprinter and hurdler at Long Beach State, seemingly the perfect assemblage of genes to concoct the next superstar.

They've had three kids, and the following quote amplifies Holmes' mission towards them: "If you're a doctor, your kid is going to med school. If you're a lawyer, he's going to law school," Holmes said. "I was an athlete. That's what I could do for my kids."

Holmes even selected their names based on, "what would sound good and be marketable worldwide." 

Furthermore, Muhammad spent countless hours in the gym growing up, prompted by his father's yearnings. Holmes even advised his son that he was going to have to "work that much harder" due to a mild case of Tourette's syndrome.

Holmes' pursuit of his son's success was deeply rooted. He wasn't just another dad in the stands cheering when his son scored, perhaps even chiding the referees on occasion. He wasn't just a another good-natured dad who took his son to the local park to hoist some jumpers or toss the baseball.

The truth is that Holmes was driven by his dream for his son, which was to make Shabazz the stud professional athlete that he never was. Holmes sought to live vicariously through his middle child, hoping to "show him the way" to superstardom.

Quite frankly, Holmes' aspirations for his children are quite common in this day and age. Every parent longs to see their child succeed, which is perfectly commendable and should be praised. However, a line is crossed when a vision for a child's success becomes more about the parent's dream than the child's heart. In this process, the kid merely becomes the object of a parent's mapped out fantasy.

Is there any love underscoring such aspirations?

No, there is simply a self-serving chase fueled by an unhealthily driven forerunner. In the case of sports, the sport no longer becomes a vehicle for a father/son to bond. It becomes the vehicle to supposed glory that is laden with unceasing pressure and crippling expectations.

This is at the crux of Shabazz Muhammad's story. He didn't grow up with a passionate love for the game. He grew up with an ambitious father. 

Perhaps one could argue that it worked out, since Shabazz will likely one day become an NBA All-Star. But there are numerous problems to such logic.

First of all, remember that there were two other children in the picture. One is a daughter named Asia, who took up tennis and even made it professionally but "still labors in the sport's lower rungs." The other is a son named Rashad, who is a high school senior who "hopes to play college ball."

Neither of these children have carried the athletic potential of their sensational brother, so Holmes "pinned most of his hopes" on Shabazz as his road to "the dream."

Instead of delighting in the uniqueness of each child, Holmes has tried to maximize their potential in one way: sports. One child is en route to attaining his father's goal, while the others likely just feel like disappointments.

Secondly, there are surely thousands of examples like this that we never hear about, in which "success" is never realized. Fathers all too often burden their child with demands athletically. Few meet the expectations. Most are left feeling manipulated by a parent's delusion or like a failure who was never good enough. Or both.

Lastly, should it even be considered a "success" when one does "make it" and gains athletic glory? It truthfully shouldn't be, because the success stems more from a parent's coercion than it does from a child's ardor.  

Consider Muhammad. There's reason to question if he really loves basketball. Why? Because he has learned to play it to please his father, rather than enjoying it as a love. It wouldn't be shocking to see him burn out and fall short of not just the expectations of his father, but also the expectations of NBA scouts.

Maybe this is already happening. The clip below shows him not celebrating with his teammates because he wasn't given the ball. Perhaps his view of the game is entirely skewed because of how he has learned it.

The latest news concerning Muhammad is very telling, namely because of what it has revealed about his upbringing (not his age). What's more, a lesson can be learned from much of this. Parenting is surely not easy, but this should alert the current trend in our country's view of athletics. Joy and love should saturate children's pursuit of sports, rather than loaded pressure and unrealistic expectations.

And, simply put, young people should pursue what they love, not what we love.

Such parenting is much easier said than done, but if handled rightly, a child's dream can come true.

And it will be theirs, not ours.