We’ve seen several prominent athletes get involved with high schools, but not all of those stories have been positive: some have been a name only without much connection, while others have been incredibly athletics-focused and have even led to scandals in some cases. The Jalen Rose Leadership Academy seems quite different, though. It’s a tuition-free charter school in Detroit, heavily focused on academics (with a 96 percent graduation rate, and graduates having a 100 percent acceptance rate to college), and ESPN analyst Rose (the school’s president and chief benefactor) is regularly there and involved with all sorts of issues, from facility upgrades to answering prospective parents’ questions about the school to engaging with past and present students.
Mary Carillo explores that and more in a new Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel piece on the academy, part of the March edition of Real Sports that will debut Tuesday night at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Here’s a clip, with Rose talking about educational challenges in Detroit, and how that prompted him to ask “How can I be part of the solution?”
The full 12-minute piece is quite interesting, and it also dives further into the anger Rose felt growing up about being poor and being abandoned by his father, NBA player Jimmy Walker. Rose talks about poverty at the end of the above clip, then goes on to talk about his father, saying “My number in high school was 42, because his was 24. I did it out of spite. …I needed him to know my name. You’re going to know my name, because you gave up on me. And the world’s going to know my name, and you’re going to have to watch it.”
That anger led to some on-court flare-ups for Rose as well, including the infamous one in college where he called Grant Hill an Uncle Tom. Rose dives into that a bit with Carillo, and said it came from his jealousy of Hill’s strong nuclear family.
“I called him an Uncle Tom when we were playing against him. I meant it as a slur. I was jealous of Grant Hill. But I didn’t realize my disdain was that he had what it looked like to be a member of the Cosby family. He actually knew his father. What a normal thing! And his father, an intellect, strong, powerful. So that bitterness literally came from being a have-not.”
Carillo says Hill told her in a previous piece he was raised to be a prince, not a basketball player, and Rose responds “I was raised to either sling crack rock or have a wicked jump shot.”
The rest of the piece is notable too, diving into some of the specifics about the school. Carillo and Rose discuss how the school strives to have Black teachers to provide kids with positive role models they can relate to, and how they offer a class on mental health issues that often aren’t discussed in the Black community. And Rose’s comments about the price of a boiler replacement illustrates how deep his involvement with the school runs, as do comments from a profiled former student and her grandmother about their interactions with him. Rose closes with a comment about how he expects the school to keep improving, and keep improving his hometown (and still current residence) of Detroit along the way.
“I’m extremely proud. I cannot lose. And our day of reckoning is coming. Revisit this in like 10 years. It’s going to be young people that are achieving their goals and aspiring to do great things and there are going to be adults that are helping that happen. And I have total faith in this city.”
Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO, and will also be available on HBO Max. This segment is produced by Nisreen Habbal, with Joe Perskie as the show’s executive producer. Photo supplied by HBO.