After spending long hours in the gym improving that jump shot or constantly working to find that perfect grip for that fastball, what can possibly be more rewarding than making it to the pros? How about playing professionally in the same city where you grew up.
This dream has come true for many athletes. Raised in Cincinnati, Ken Griffey, Jr. signed with the Cincinnati Reds, the same team his father played with for 11 seasons. Tracy McGrady grew up in Auburndale, Florida and now plays less than an hour away from his hometown for the Orlando Magic. Even NBA Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain, who grew up in Philadelphia, played for the Philadelphia Warriors and Philadelphia 76ers before he was traded to the Lakers.
Lately, this trend has become even more popular among superstar athletes. Point guard Stephon Marbury, a Brooklyn, New York native, was recently traded from the Phoenix Suns back home to play for the New York Knicks. Since his home debut, Knicks games have been selling out at the Garden.
Three former New York Yankee all-star pitchers have also changed uniforms, choosing teams of relatively close-to-home locations. Roger Clemens, who attended the University of Texas, and has a home outside of Houston signed with the Houston Astros along with Texas junior college product Andy Pettitte.
David Wells recently signed with the San Diego Padres, a couple of hours away from his hometown of Torrance, California.
While these transactions seem to work out in the best interest for the players, these are also good business moves.
When Michael Jordan, who hails from North Carolina, came up in talks of possibly owning a share of the new NBA franchise Charlotte Bobcats, the buzz around the league was that his name alone would help market them. Jordan eventually declined the offer, but the hometown effect was felt.
LeBron James, who grew up in Akron, Ohio, is the prime example. Let’s be honest. LBJ has the ability to sell out any arena in the league, but the fact that he was drafted by his home-state Cleveland Cavaliers has boosted their stock and increased their tickets sales dramatically.
Seems like the best thing to do today is to find that homegrown talent. The players will be just as happy as the front office to play.
LeMont Calloway is a sophomore newspaper journalism student from Chicago. He is an assistant sports editor for The Famuan. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org