Marquise Walker – Too Much Too Soon

If you went to ESPN.com today, you probably saw a feature that they have posted called “Youtube Baby”. It’s an Outside The Lines report on Marquise Walker. He’s an 8yr old Chicago kid and he was once labeled as the best kindergartner in the nation. I knew about this kid way before ESPN got wind of him. He has videos all over Youtube and here in the Chi, just about everybody in the hoop circles know about him. Seeing this feature on ESPN though, I have to be honest I felt kind of sick watching it.

The first time I ever saw him on Youtube I thought it was pretty cool. There are a lot of videos out there with him and some well known players and there are some with him actually playing ball. Like most people who saw the vids, I thought the kid was pretty good. Anybody who saw him could tell that he had talent. But when I saw the whole  back story on why the videos were out there it really, really bothered me. The videos are essentially a marketing campaign to try and get him as much exposure possible. Now I’m not doubting the love that Marquise’s father has for his son, but it’s very easy to see that this kid is being exploited no matter how much they try to mask it as being something positive. Are we that sports crazy in the hood that we would stoop so low as to pimp out our own kids? The reporter asked the kid why he wanted to go to the NBA and he said: To be on the team and make money. I’m about the money, that’s me.”  I don’t know how you would feel about hearing something like that, but it ticked me off pretty good. You know that those are the adults talking, not an 8 year old.

My son is 3 years old and he loves basketball. I guess by 3 year old standards he’s pretty good, but then again I haven’t been around very many toddlers that hoop to have something to compare him to either. I know that his interest in the game comes from me and if he does end up playing at a high level then that’s great. But I’m certainly not pushing him in that direction either. I’m letting him be a kid first, and that’s how it should be. Check out the feature and the chat transcript with his father Chikosi.

Marquise Walker – Outside The Lines

Chikosi Walker – ESPN Chat Transcript

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10 Responses

  1. Great post. Don’t remember you Williams Sister’s case?The father is turning his son into a circus clown .This situation is very sad.

    Regards from Barcelona (Spain)

  2. illanoyz,

    I couldn’t possible agree with you more. This child is being exploited. Even if by some miracle Marquise turns out to be an NBA star; he will still have missed out on a carefree childhood. A child should live without the constant attention and pressure of being a media star.

    This line of thinking, however, brings me to a hole in my argument. What of other types of childhood stars? Are all child actors being exploited? How about child “superstars”? Are there any differences? There are likely to be shades of gray I guess. Marquise’s father has clearly made this about the money, the brand, and not about basketball player or his son. If his father had no selfish intentions he would mentor his son to help him succeed at school and help fuel his passion for basketball.

    I also must raise some serious questions about the ESPN coverage here. Seriously, they did not ask any substantial questions about raising a child in this way. The story does include reflections from a man who was branded as the nex great player at the age of 11. He didn’t turn out to be the super star like they said he would. That disappointment for the child was unfortunate to say the least. But this line of questioning is only a what if. What if he doesn’t turn out to be a great basket ball player? My question is; what if he does? Will that have made his exploitation from the age of three years on be worth it?

  3. you are stupid

  4. While this is unfortunate for this child to be brainwashed and exploited in such a way, the real tragedy is in the stagnant dysfunction of our society. If living in the hood makes us that desperate to “get out” that we have to train our kids out the womb, then things need to change. “Either slangin crack rock or you got a wicked jump shot,” when taken literally means, you need to beat the odds if you want to make it out. If our society was not so backwards, this child would have a shot without having to sacrifice his childhood in the process. Let’s check back in 15 years and see how he’s doing. If he has not bleached his skin, disfigured his face, been charged with child molestation, and opened an amusement park in his backyard, his dad might be onto something. Once again, the odds are against him.

  5. Read the freaking chat transcript before commenting jeez…

    1) Both of MArquis’ parents are college graduates who are gainfully employed homeowners. THey are not looking for a meal ticket. They are trying to find a way to make certain that their boy goes to college.

    2) IF Marquis does not do his homework he can’t play. This should tell you two things. First that the father really does prioritize education (unlike alot of you out there who seem to have not learned reading comprehension). Second that if this is the punishment…then Marquis really does enjoy playing.

    3) THe father’s goal is not the NBA but college. Marquis himself and the slant of the press piece (which was unfairly used to sensationalize the piece) want the NBA as a goal. His father though continually repeats that college is the goal and focuses on college scouts coming. Hell it doesn’t matter if it’s a D-2 or D-1 college. IN his father’s eyes that’s not a failure but goal accomplished

    4) Bloggers and morons keep harping on is when Marquis said” I want to make money”. As if that was the machinations of adults talking. Right. THis is when you realize how amnesiatic adults really are about their own childhood experience. YOu are damn right I wanted money since the age of 5. Why the hell did I do all those chores and really bad jobs for? You learn the value of the other things later. His father even says..that Marquis will learn later

    5) Marquis will get a chance to play other sports next year.

    Are we that anti-marketing? This is what Asian parents do all the time here in Korea. THey try to market their children’s unqiue gifts in whatever way possible so that they are assured of having the window open to opportunities.

    I showed this to my colleagues and then showed them the commentary…they were shocked at the cynicism and outrage. This father they said is actually be responsible and a good parent.

    THis is the difference between Asia and the US. Americans are outraged at…what? the marketing…the making certain that this boy will be noticed among thousands? THis is how the damn world works everywhere else where spots are very few, where competition is grueling. Where children have to be pushed harder than they are in the US. Otherwise that door to a better life shuts very quickly among the teeming masses here.

    I shake my head at the ridiculous outrage.

  6. Mr. Kwag. Thank you for reading my blog and also sharing this with your colleagues as well. Typically, I don’t respond to people — at least not openly on my blog — who leave comments, but based on your comments I feel compelled to.

    They say that truth is spoken out of the mouths of babes. Listening to the adults speak about how this is something that can help Marquise get into college this thing almost seems like a good idea right? Well you’re from Korea and according to you things like this are the norm over there, but here in America shamelessly marketing your child isn’t the norm, nor is sports the only avenue one has in order to attend college for free. In fact, getting an athletic scholarship is actually the most difficult road to a free education in this country. Marquise said himself that his dad wants him to go to the NBA. However, when he was asked why college was important to him, he said that he didn’t know why. That lets me know that what is being discussed with Marquise is not going to college…but going to the NBA. I’m not saying that playing in the NBA isn’t a good thing because it is, I just feel like that’s a lot of pressure to put on a kid. Millions of kids in the US play basketball, but there are only 450 spots open in the NBA. The odds are definitely stacked against you and you have to be the BEST of the best to even make it to that level.

    In the ESPN chat transcript his father says over and over again that this is about a free education for his son, so why did he admit that he worries about him possibly burning out? What happens if Marquise burns out and doesn’t want to play basketball anymore? Is there a backup “marketing plan” in place to help get his son that free education he so desperately desires for him? Is he going to put videos on Youtube of young Marquise doing his homework? He also said in the transcript that members of his own family haven’t agreed with what he’s doing. I can say with certainty that there isn’t a college coach in America who is actually scouting this kid because of all this and if there is, then that person needs to have his head examined.

    As far as the money part, yes when I was a kid I wanted money…to buy GI Joes and candy. That’s it. My 9 year old son, he wants money too…he wants to buy dinosaur toys and games for his Xbox 360. When Marquise made his comment, and the way that he actually said it shows me that he has a little more than a regular 8yr olds concept of money. In fact, the way that he talks and carries himself is very typical of inner city Chicago kids who tend to grow up way too fast in the first place. So seeing him on ESPN and performing at halftime of an NBA game or going on talk shows lets me know that this isn’t about basketball anymore…Marquise is a performer and this is essentially already a job. Marquise and his family get paid for the appearances that they make. Is that not exploitation?

    His father can spin it however he wants but it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s going on here. This is nothing more than a gimmick, a hustle. It’s so “Chicago” because EVERYBODY here is all about the hustle. Always looking for a way to come up. This is Chikosi Walker’s way. Marquise Walker doesn’t remind me of the next Derrick Rose. The way that he carries himself reminds me of Arthur Agee and this story reminds me of William Gates. To me he embodies both of them. You probably have no idea of who the people that I just mentioned are, so go out and see if you can find a copy of the movie “Hoop Dreams”. It’s a classic example of what basketball in Chicago is all about for kids who grow up here and what can happen when they are thrust into the spotlight too soon.

  7. “To be on the team and make money. I’m about the money, that’s me.”
    This ain´’t adults talking, this is fairy tale fictional hiphop talk, knaw mean ?

    To be honest, i liked your post and still do because such a campaign needs some criticism and you make a good point. Though I can see something positive, i just dont believe this is the way real adults talk. I mean the benefits of being on a NBA roster and making serious money are clearly visible for – even for an 8yr old. The understanding and reasoning why one benefits from going to college is unlike less visible. Nobody can tell if the kid is going to make the NBA. From a mathematical point of view, he won’t make it, because the odds are against any given prospect.

    The kid does not know that, but i believe daddy knows it, coach Peterson knows it too. But there is a pretty good chance that he gets a college spot somewhere because of basketball. If he ends up in any division one or two college his father’s mission is accomplished. Basically i am making the same point like John Kwag did before me. Plus, i am saying daddy is a good motivator.

    This is something good coaches and good father do have in common. People forget that motivation can be about fun. And if a father shows his little kid that gaining a spot in college can be fun, he is not doing something bad.

    As long as Marquis can’t remember LeBron’s name from time to time it’s all good. Have you seen the Chinese gymnastics team and the way to prepare ? That’s sickening !

  8. My impression of the video seems to be quite different than most I’ve seen. The interesting thing here is like the “red paper clip” phenomenon. Essentially, they’ve “traded up” on some relationship with Jamaal Tinsley for a gigantic hype machine. There is not much discussion of how well the young man actually plays. Most of this is centered on how a couple of guys were able to build a successful marketing program with very little apparant budget.

    I don’t want to be harsh about the child…he looks like a good, but not amazing, 8 year old. I was expecting something akin to the Tiger Wood’s footage–this is not even close. Additionally, his father’s height does not bode well statistically for this young man.

    Who has the “love of baskeball” in this video? What should be telling to most people is that the child doesn’t readily know the names of the superstars or even the stars with which he is posing. I’ve known plenty of 8 year old basketball players; the ones that are really into it can rattle off names AND statistics.-at least for the likes of LeBron James!

    On a positive note, the footage of father and son working together is great. It comes across that the father truely wants what is best for his son. As long as they both have realistic expectations (they both need to realize that this was just a succesful marketing ploy) everything should work out just fine for them. Who knows, maybe his skills and size will continue to grow, and he can, one day, make his high school team. That would be a healthy focus.

  9. I am doing a paper on this kid for school an i loved what this father was doing until i heard the kid talk. When he said; “To be on the team and make money. I’m about the money, that’s me”, i lost all respect for his father. An eight old old kid doesn’t say that a father says that. I dont question his love an his desire to see his son do well, but there are somethings he is doing wrong. An listening to his son say that and not reacting in a negative manner really makes me mad. Now i don’t have kids, i basically still am a kid, but come on man you cant let that be coming outta you sons mouth. He’s on his way to the NBA, but he is going to be another money hungry spoiled athlete. Like sports need more of that…

  10. That kid said that he dont blame his dad for wanting him to go to the NBA. He even said he wont to go to the NBA. Lastly he is not really getting persuaded because his dad is not saying you have to go to the NBA .

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