Harvard Basketball Star Trades Hoop Dreams for an MBA
Before entering college, Michael Beal had dreams of making it to the NBA. By the time he graduated form high school, he was ranked as one of the top 100 basketball players in the country and could have accepted a scholarship at a basketball powerhouse in the ACC or Big East.
But after scoring a 1420 on his SAT, Beal decided to challenge himself academically instead of going up against the top basketball players on the court.
He enrolled at Harvard University to concentrate on academics while continuing to play the game of basketball.
Currently enrolled at Harvard Business School, Beal recently revealed why he decided to trade in his hoop dreams for an Ivy League education. –amir shaw
At what point in your life did you decide to go to college and get an advanced degree?
I read a book called Forty Million Dollar Slaves and I realized that the only real way to take control of this is to get an education. That book says that for every NBA player who has made it, there are about 1,000 who have fallen off that conveyor belt and at some point have relegated themselves back to whatever stoops, just like a lot of my friends are back on the same stoop in Brooklyn. … By going to Harvard and being one of the top players in the country, that would then send a message to others to use athletics and not let athletics use you. I’d always known that I was going to go to college, but it was that transition where my purpose for going to college changed.
Being 17 years old, having all of the big schools recruiting you, having NBA dreams and knowing Harvard wouldn’t get many NBA scouts, how much of a conflict was that for you?
It killed me when I was playing ball in college. Not many people really cared about Harvard’s basketball team and I would watch TV and see Georgetown play Connecticut at the MCI Center, which holds 18,000 people. I could have been there instead of sitting in a gym that holds about 1,895 people and rarely sells out. That was a very painful thing. My sophomore year, I became the starting point guard and I was having a pretty good season. In practice, the night before the Brown game, our shooting guard took a charge and fell into my knee and blew the whole thing out. Your body can break down fairly easily, but your mind shouldn’t. But I got drafted into the NBA’s Developmental League. I only wish someone had told me how much I [was going to get] paid before I got there. I made multiples of that while working at Morgan Stanley. Statistically, after two years past retirement from the NFL, 67 percent of players file for bankruptcy. Five years after retiring from the NBA, the same statistic applies. That is a short-term thing where you get paid a lot up front because it’s supposed to replicate lifetime earnings. However, people spend that. I’ve been in the process of creating a foundation to solve that problem of our pro athletes going bankrupt.
So what advice do you give to kids, specifically guys that think they’re going to make it in sports or entertainment?
You’re not. And it’s a hard reality. You have to be able to look in the face of the odds and say one out of 1,000 people make it playing pro ball. I think people should switch that mentality a little bit to give kids a little bit more exposure. What’s important is for young black professionals to provide counter examples of black success.