New Study Says NBA Players More Likely to Come from Wealthier, Two-Parent Households

Published On November 11, 2013 | By john | Be the boss, News, The Barbershop

BY:  John “Hennry” Harris

The prevailing mindset in the hood, or presumptive mindset,  is that are only three ways to get out of those impoverished conditions: be a dope dealer, an entertainer or a ball player.  We have seen this scenario played out in movies, interviews, and documentaries over and over again, to the point where those three options appear to be the only viable options.  So, if you don’t have a wicked jump shot or can’t rap, dance, or sing …. there is only ONE viable option to elevate yourself out of poverty .. crime.  This mental trap can now be debunked as fool’s gold.

LeBron James was born to a 16-year-old single mother in the seedier neighborhoods of Akron, OH and managed to make it to the pinnacle of basketball at an amazingly young age.  LeBron’s condensed life-story has always been seen as the rule, born poor and uses being poor as a motivator to become the best basketball player and go pro, but a study may prove that LeBron’s success is more of a social phenomenon and exception rather than the standard or rule.  For instance, two other great basketball players, Michael “Air” Jordan and Chris Paul, of the Los Angeles Clippers,  both came from two-parent, middle class homes.

According to a mind-blowing new study, NBA players are more likely to come from two-parent, wealthier family homes, than the traditional romanticized notion of using basketball to escape from poverty.

Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, a Harvard-educated economist, has constructed an argument that should change the way we imagine how professional athletes make it. Stephens-Davidowitz argument model is based on “news stories, social networks and public records” and has produced a result totally contrary to what is generally perceived as truth.

“Growing up in a wealthier neighborhood is a major, positive predictor of reaching the N.B.A. for both black and white men. Is this driven by sons of N.B.A. players like the Warriors’ brilliant Stephen Curry? Nope. Take them out and the result is similar.”

“These results push back against the stereotype of a basketball player driven by an intense desire to escape poverty,” he says.

Stephens-Davidowitz argues that poverty is an inhibitor to success, period.

“Poor children in contemporary America,” he writes, still have substandard nutrition, holding back their development. “They have higher infant mortality rates and lower average birth weights, and recent research has found that poverty in modern America inhibits height. In basketball, the importance of every inch is enormous. I estimate that each additional inch almost doubles your chances of making the N.B.A.”

Going back to LeBron James’ story, his mother, Gloria Marie James, while struggling to find steady work, realized that LeBron would be better off in a more stable home environment, allowed LeBron to move in with the family of Frank Walker, a local youth football coach that introduced young James to basketball when he was 9-years-old.

The struggle to overcome poverty is a real one and there have been many athletes that have managed to use athletics to get out of poverty and poverty was a driving motivator,  but the numbers show that those that actually achieve the “American” dream for us is a small, small percentage.  Think about it.  An NBA roster is 15 players, with a draft that takes place every year to fill roster spots that are already filled.  The fact is, the same energy put into “hoping” to go the NBA to escape poverty can be put towards other avenues to achieve elevation from poverty with a better chance of success.

  • About The Author

    Follow John on Twitter @JohnHennry904 John "Hennry" Harris is a Sr. Editor at and BOSS -



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