I'm sure you've heard stories of NBA or NFL stars refusing to play until they were offered a more lucrative contract. In 2004, former NBA All-Star Latrell Sprewell refused a three-year, $21-million contract offer because he "had a family to feed."
I'm sure Sprewell could have ever imagined making $7 million per year playing the game he loved as a child, but once he made it to the NBA he, like others before and after him, became a different person altogether. A money-driven person.
Real Role Models isn't about becoming rich and famous. We're not profiling the 40 wealthiest African-American professionals and we're not interviewing anyone who has made it to the executive suite or limelight. Instead, we're reaching out to passion-driven people. It is my full belief that one's passion for what he or she does, not how much money is made doing it, makes that person more of a real role model.
In saying that, it has been a great pleasure to meet and speak with people like Lynn Tyson, who turned her passion for information into a career as one of the nation's top investor relations executives, and Leonard Pitts, who has written professionally for close to 30 years and still dreams of writing a fiction novel, and Je'Caryous Johnson, who turned his own zest for theatre into one of the top black-owned theatre production companies in the country.
From our conversations with these passionate individuals, we have learned that real role models can often reach the upper-echelons of wages in the business world, both corporate and entrepreneurial, but more importantly they have reached the upper-echelons of their respective professions, often times putting them in dream-like jobs.
There are likely millions of young children, black and non-black alike, who dream of being professional athletes. I can only hope they grow to become real role models, unlike Sprewell and a few other pro athletes who lost their childhood passion.