Knicks Jason Kidd's Recent DWI Reflects Need for Mentors in the Game of Life

Rosalyn RossContributor IJuly 16, 2012

photo of Jason Kidd courtesy of
photo of Jason Kidd courtesy of

We all make mistakes. I’ve certainly made my share.

Jason Kidd recently made the mistake of driving while intoxicated, endangering his own life as well as the lives of those who might have traveled the same road he did on Long Island in the early morning hours on Sunday.

Even though his friends had to carry him out of the club according to this TMZ article, they were unable to convince him not to get behind the wheel. He hit a pole in a single car accident and fortunately was not seriously injured.

Since NBA free agency began, Jason Kidd has been a hot commodity.

Kidd’s time in Dallas was well spent as he provided veteran leadership for a team that so desperately needed it. He was traded to the Mavs by New Jersey in 2008 and vowed to help guide their voyage to the championship promised land. He proved to be a man of his word and the Mavs were crowned NBA Champs in 2011.

Over the last couple of weeks Kidd’s name has been associated with a couple of high-profile free agency moves. He’d been mentioned as a potential backup to Deron Williams in a package deal with the duo playing either in New Jersey or Dallas. Deron is a friend and offseason workout cohort of Kidd’s and was drawn to the possibility of some on the job learning.

The New York Knicks landed Kidd last week with the expectation that he would possibly serve as guru to the still developing point guard, Jeremy Lin of Linsanity fame. Lin now looks to be headed to Houston, but Kidd’s role as capable backup and mentor will likely still be a valuable one as Raymond Felton’s recent signing makes him the beneficiary of Jason’s tutorship.

Teams have coveted Kidd for his game wisdom and his ability to serve as a leader on the floor. His recent arrest reminds us, however, that what we see on the court rarely paints the entire picture.

Ever since Charles Barkley was vilified for telling us that he wasn’t a role model in this Nike ad, we have been trying to reconcile what we see from athletes during games and at charity events with what we see on the news—and it hasn’t been pretty.

The 24-hour news cycle has given us non-stop access to our beloved athletes in so many different facets of their lives. It can be hard to make sense of what we see on TMZ against the backdrop of the focus, determination and camaraderie we see during competition.

When a guy rudely refuses a kid an autograph in a cringe-inducing reality TV moment just hours after saying "it’s all about the fans" in a post-game interview, we feel hurt and betrayed.

But of course that’s not the worst of it.

A quick Google search of NBA and NFL players on trial for murder or aggravated assault or involved in domestic violence disputes reveals an urgent need for us to draw the hard and painful line between the athlete and the person.

Management across the leagues has likely been doing their own Google searches as well. What the results say to them is that with each indictment, court case and arrest, the popularity of their respective sports is jeopardized. And popularity in jeopardy is revenue at risk.

So when the NBA starts to get a reputation as a league full of thugs, Commissioner David Stern takes a seemingly insignificant and unnecessary step of enforcing a dress code to help change league culture and affect negative public perception.

And when NFL players are becoming known for what they do on the field as much for what they do in strip clubs, Commissioner Roger Goodell takes great pleasure in vigorously enforcing the NFL Personal Conduct Policy.

League managers have figured out something else too, that there is power in the cautionary tale. The logic is simple, that a strong word of warning at the beginning of a career might help a player avoid a tenure filled with missteps and bad decisions.

Michael Vick, Adam (formerly Pacman) Jones and Chris Herren have all been making their rounds, speaking to rookies about the pitfalls of fame and the redemption that can be born of reformation.

And it’s not just the rookies who can benefit from those teachings. Even a 39-year-old wily floor general could learn a thing or two about responsible decision making and the tough, long road to redemption.