Jalen Rose: The Man and His Mission

Jalen Rose: The Man and His Mission

The former NBA Star discusses his ups, his downs and his passions.

Published May 20, 2011

What’s there to say about Jalen Rose that hasn’t already been said? He’s one of the Fab Five from the University of Michigan, a former NBA star and an analyst for ESPN. The Detroit native is known for his philanthropic work with inner-city youths and is now in the works to open the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy in Detroit this fall. The JRLA is a Charter Prep School that will be tuition free and in his words, “Try to afford students with the best education possible.” 


Back in early March, Rose was plagued with a DUI that got him temporarily suspended from ESPN.  He issued an apology, accepting full responsibility for his actions and has been back on the network for about a month. 


Rose has his sights set on raising money for his academy and is reaching deep within his own pockets to make it happen. Next week, Rose will auction off one of the world’s last surviving 1969 Dodge Chargers from The Dukes of Hazzard TV show on eBay Motors. The car is part of his private collection. All proceeds will go to JRLA. BET News spoke briefly with the NBA vet about the auction, his legal troubles and his school. 


BET News: Tell us a little bit about the auction.


Jalen Rose: I’m very excited being a Detroit native, I’m really into collecting cars and I have a pretty nice collection. One of the cars that was part of the collection is a 1969 Dodge Charger, one of the four original vehicles used on the popular television show Dukes of Hazzard. It’s signed by Rob Schneider who was Bo Duke on the show. On May 27, I’m going to auction that car off in order to create fundraising efforts for what I am trying to do at the school. 


So you customized the car a little bit. Can you tell us about the modification?


Well you can’t be brother in Detroit riding with a confederate flag, so I thought it was probably best for me to paint it orange. And my lucky number is 0-5. So I changed the number to 0-5 and everything else is basically kept original.


So, it’s more like a General Rose?


(Laughs) Something like that.


Many athletes and former athletes are philanthropists. But you are the first to open a school. What sparked the idea for that?


It was just a graduation of the mission I’ve have had to help and influence kids to get scholarships to college. I already have an endowment at the University of Michigan. So really I’m just taking that to the next level. In a town like Detroit, the school system has been noted as probably the worst in the country. Our graduation rates and our proficiency test scores are some of the worst also. I’m doing what I can, and using my platform for high school graduates…for college graduates. They need somebody that cares, so I have to do what I can to give back with my time, energy and money.


Can you talk a little bit about why education is so important?


We are competing in a global economy. Students from other countries, whether India, Philippines, China, even Canada, go to school seven days a week in some cases, and for 240 days per year. Here in Detroit we go only 176. That just won’t cut it. That’s four months off. There’s no summer vacation in the real world. So our kids are going to go 215 days a year, minus Saturdays, and really up the level of excellence and the profession.


The dropout rates among young African-Americans is high, especially in Detroit. I know you are from Detroit, but does that play a role in why Detroit was the location for your school?


Well, Detroit is my hometown, and being a product of the Detroit public school system, it really did hit hard with so many schools closings. Now in the fall there’s talk of even a lot of public schools having 50, maybe 60 or more teachers to student ratio, and that’s just so unfortunate. I’m just trying to do what I can to create a school that’s a positive vessel, that’s a school of excellence.


Let’s switch gears for a moment. As a former athlete, you are a role model for many kids. And you have so many fans. Are you worried at all about any of the impressions left from your DUI case?


Not at all. The one thing about life, none of us is perfect. And it’s not what happens to you it’s what you do about it. And it was definitely a poor decision. I’m going to suffer the consequences, deal with it like a man and move on. But it doesn’t put me in a position to where I am ashamed, or, you know, my passion is not the same for my career or my life. I have to move forward and do what I got to do to give back to my community.


If you could speak to all your fans right now, what would you say to them?


I want to make education cool. You know, I think, especially in the Black community, being stupid has become being cool and it’s unfortunate because we really are competing in international economy. When you put your resume on the desk, you want to have an opportunity for success. You’re going up against kids who speak multiple languages that are truly advantaged by where they were raised and the expectations of them from an early age. We must up the ante and really put ourselves in position for success. Don’t look to the left or look to the right, look in the mirror.

Written by Tiffany Tate


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