Gilbert Arenas is the most recent athlete to fall from grace. There are many other professional athletes I can name who at one point were at the top of their game (literally) and wound up at the bottom of the heap.
What is it about so many professional athletes who think that the law doesn't apply to them? Or maybe they think they can break the law with no consequences because they can afford the best lawyers to get them off. Or that the police will recognize "who they are" and wink, wink... nod, nod... look the other way for illegal activity. Personally - I don't even think there is that much awareness. They are just living in the present, with no thought to the future.
Well you know what?? It doesn't work that way. You are not above the law - Michael Vick went to federal prison, and Gilbert Arenas could serve up to 6 months in jail. Ray Lewis made a plea deal, after the witnesses to his crime "changed their story" and he made a plea deal to testify against his companions. (I'm HIGHLY suspicious of this, and have quite a bit of contempt for Lewis. But that's another whole blog post...) Not to mention those athletes like Tiger Woods and Magic Johnson whose personal behavior is morally questionable but not illegal.
What athletes need to realize is that they are role models, like it or not. You - the young athelte - need to know and recognize this LONG before you enter the draft, or farm leagues, or even try out for college teams. With fame comes responsibility. You need to know going in that with the posters, shoe deals, tricked out Escalade, ginormous paycheck, and VIP treatment at every restaurant and nightclub, comes the image that SO MANY young people see and want to imitate.
You cannot tell yourself as you cash your check that it's all about how you perform on the court or field, and everything else is private. NOTHING is private these days. You may say that you never asked for any of this - well guess what? The minute you signed that multi-million dollar contract, YOU DID. Whether you like it or not, these days, that is how it works.
Your name and face are all over the cereal boxes and bobble heads. Young kids wear your shoes and jersey number; they pay BIG bucks to see you play and dream that they can one day do what you do. If they play hard enough, they CAN be you. For that - you owe them the responsibility of a public image worth emulating. Be someone worthy of this praise. Live a life - on and off the court - that you are proud of. Make good decisions - ones that you would want your son, daughter, niece, nephew, and grandchildren to make.
That is what your legacy will be. Not how many triple-doubles you had in your career, or your election into the Hall of Fame. Your WHOLE life - one not just of talented athletic performance, but one of good deeds and good words will be your legacy. Make it one you are proud of.