TONY COX, host:
It's time now for sports with William C. Rhoden. He is a sports columnist for the New York Times and author of "Third and a Mile: The Trials and Triumphs of the Black Quarterback."
There are trades in the works in baseball and basketball. We're waiting to see what NFL player is going to be suspended next. Pictures of Tiger's little baby is circulating all over the place. And Jeff Gordon is still on top of the Nextel Cup standings.
But, Bill, today's big story is the NBA draft, of course. And, you know, there's not a lot of drama around which players are expected to go in the top three or four spots and none at all over who's going to be number one and number two.
Greg Oden from Ohio State, Kevin Durant from Texas are thought to be the new beacons for a league always looking out for new stars.
But here is my question. Unlike the NFL, the NBA doesn't seem to me, Bill, to be especially concerned about the character issue with its new draftees. Is that true, number one, or has the league learned something football hasn't about picking the people who play for them?
Mr. WILLIAM C. RHODEN (Sports Columnist, New York Times; Author, "Third and a Mile: The Trials and Triumphs of the Black Quarterback"): Yeah. Yeah. Tony, I think that, you know, the NBA has been hit hard in the last 15 years by character issues culminating with the brawl in Detroit. And I think that GMs and even the players, I think, have gotten the message about drafting character - and not so much even drafting character, but about being character people. And that when you get drafted, you represent more than just yourself; you represent the organization, you represent a league.
So I think the NBA, because it's such a visible league, because the players are so visible, you see them and it's a sort of touchy-feely league, you know, I think they've got that message early. I don't think - I think they've turned that page.
COX: Well, speaking of character, Bill Rhoden, the "As the Kobe World Turns" reality show has been running for about a month now, will he go? Will he stay? Is the love lost in L.A.? Tune in next time. You get the picture.
Mr. RHODEN: You're right. It is - you know what? He should stay, and his career should be a - docudrama. You know, they all are reality show. You know, he should stay right there in L.A. and do a reality show.
COX: I don't know why this seems so weird though. Why is it so weird?
Mr. RHODEN: It's more bizarre. You know, for - see, the - here's the problem with Kobe. See, Kobe is not really free. You know, he's not free. I mean, he could be a free agent and all, but he's not free. He does not want to leave Los Angeles, and that's the problem. If you are truly a free agent or if you're truly resigned to turning the corner, you don't care where you're going.
You know, you could be in Minnesota, in New York, but he really wants to stay in Los Angeles, and that's the problem. He's not happy there, but he's not going to be happy there, but he's not going to be happy anywhere else. That's his home. He grew up loving that team. That's where his heart is, that's where his soul is, and that's where his problems are. So, you know, that's kind of the issue.
Let me say one thing, Tony, about this NBA draft, though, and it kind of relates to Kobe in terms of why L.A. needs him, he needs L.A. You see, the NBA is in a quandary. You know, you look - they just had their NBA series, and nobody, I mean, really very few people outside of Cleveland and San Antonio watched it.
They've got a way. They've got to find a way to get some of these star players and star rookies and star young people in Los Angeles, New York and Boston. They have to do that. They cannot continue to go on like this. But, you know, you look, you're going to have Durant, where? Out the Pacific Northwest somewhere. You're going to have Oden, where? Somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, which is fine, but it's not going to be great for ratings. So they…
COX: They've got to do something.
Mr. RHODEN: They've got to do something.
COX: All right. Let's move on to Wimbledon where Serena Williams is once again considered America's best hope for victory on the women's side. But you know, Serena and Venus have been carrying the banner - for black folks especially -for quite awhile now. And as their careers wind down, I don't see any African-American future tennis stars coming up behind them. Is the future of tennis for people of color starting to fade?
Mr. RHODEN: Well, maybe not so much for the people of color, but certainly African-Americans. Venus and Serena were not like Jackie Robinson, you know, where they'd be followed by thousands of kids. And not only has Venus and Serena carried the banner for, you know, for black folks, they've carried for women's tennis. You know, tennis is no better than when those two are challenging and in the hunt.
When they're gone, man, a lot of the wind is going to go out of the sails of tennis. And the tragedy is that the people - some of the people at tennis have been so busy sniffing at them and being jealous and - that they don't realize, man, that when those two women leave, the air is going to be out of the balloon.
COX: Out of the balloon altogether.
All right, one more topic. As we speak, Barry Bonds, six homeruns shy of baseball's biggest record. Now, of course, Bill, a lot has been said about him, the steroid controversy, the perceived as snub by the Commissioner Bud Selig, who may not even show up today, he hits it, and on and on and on and on. But no one has talked about this. The pitcher who is going to give up that historic hit to Bonds, which will put him into the record books along with Bonds.
Now, you and I both know that the last pitcher to do that, Al Downing with the Dodgers who gave up Hank Aaron, 755th, he still talks about that to this day. So what are pitchers going to do? What can they do to avoid that road to Cooperstown?
Mr. RHODEN: I was listening to Curt Schilling the other day. And he said, oh, I don't want to be Al Downing. And he was talking about why he wouldn't want to be the one that would, you know, be - give Barry Bonds a homerun that was 755 or 756. And I said, you know what, Schilling didn't have the courage to be Al Downing.
I think that every Major League pitcher should be a Major League pitcher. And when Bonds is at bat, I think it's a certain degree of courage to actually try to get the guy out. And if he hits you, and if he takes you out of the park, well, guess what? He's taking a lot of great pitchers out of the ballpark.
If you look at the list of people who Hank Aaron (unintelligible), you know, he hit 17 homeruns off of Don Drysdale, seven off of Sandy Koufax, seven off of Bob Gibson and he's - you know. So it's not like he's singling you out, well, you know, for (unintelligible) punishment.
So I think that this - if you really are a great pitcher, this is not - being victimized by Barry Bonds is not going to define your career. And if it does define your career, you've had a pretty, I think, mediocre career.
COX: Bill, it's always a pleasure to talk to you, but our time is up, man. We've got to go.
Mr. RHODEN: Okay. Well, if we've got to go, we got to go.
COX: We'll just have to talk about it after it happens.
William C. Rhoden is a sports columnist for the New York Times and author of "Third and a Mile: The Trials and Triumphs of the Black Quarterback." He joined us from our studios in New York.
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