Kobe King was labeled a “quitter” by many after he abruptly left Wisconsin’s basketball program a week ago.
His coach was “disappointed.”
And college basketball pundits like Andy Katz questioned his integrity.
The fans and alumni were even more unforgiving.
Good riddance. If you're going to leave a program when things get a little bit tough, you're not the type of athlete we want anyways. It's not like he was "lighting up the court" either. I know he's a kid, but what an entitled vibe. Reminds me of Uthoff. #WontMissYa #WahlTime
— Aaron Heim (@HeimTime88) January 29, 2020
Thursday, we found out why the Badgers second-leading scorer walked away so suddenly.
Erik Helland, the Badgers former strength and conditioning coach, used the N-word around a group of players on the team.
“I owned it. I said the word,” Helland told ESPN.
King was one of the few Black players on Wisconsin’s roster, and Helland is white.
Helland resigned from his position on Thursday. His excuse for saying the one word white people can’t say was that he was “recounting a story” from his days working in the NBA.
“I said, ‘Oh my God, I’m such an idiot,” Helland explained. “I never denied it. … I’m human, fallible. I made a mistake. This one cost me my job.”
Excuse me for not having any sympathy for Helland. He didn’t have any respect for the Black players on his team when he said it, which is why I don’t feel sorry for him now.
According to reports, King had previously expressed concerns about Helland’s treatment of minority players within the program to those close to him. And in a recent interview with the Wisconsin State Journal, King explained that his frustrations with head coach Greg Gard and the program had been building for a while.
“I just talked to him about the way we were talked to as a team,” said King. “It’s not about the negativity always, because I’ve seen that.”
When you add it all up, it’s no wonder why King said that Wisconsin was “not the right fit for me as a player or person.”
However, the most concerning thing about this situation is that King’s coach, fans, and people like Katz were immediately “disappointed,” or called him a quitter without taking a moment to consider that something else was going on.
That same mentality was expressed by other coaches across the country.
“I’m a show-goes-on-type of guy,” a coach told ESPN. “So I don’t really care … If he’s unhappy, then it will probably be good he’s gone, for everyone’s sake.”
“You’re still disappointed in the timing of things. You’re wishing it hadn’t happened, he’s one of the better players on the team,” a high-major coach told the worldwide leader. “You want to keep everybody on the ship. In your push to make the NCAA tournament, it becomes a distraction, and it’s one less player on the court. So it’s something you wish you could’ve avoided. But once he makes the determination that he’s leaving, you’re not working at that point to bring him back.”
Less than 3% of the students at the University of Wisconsin are Black. And despite being a former Mr. Basketball in the state who was the Badger’s leading scorer in conference play, it’s apparent that King’s former school and coaches “don’t see color.”
When you willfully choose to ignore a person’s blackness it means that you’re disregarding their experiences and existence.
In the end, Kobe King did what was best for him and made the right decision by leaving Wisconsin.
Because it’s become apparent that Wisconsin was only concerned with what he could do for them, and not what they could do for him.