Derrick Coleman was the man during his time with the then-New Jersey Nets.
Coleman was the only Net to earn at least two All-NBA honors before Jason Kidd a decade later. And Kidd is still the only other Net to have done so.
The 6-10 forward was an obvious choice for the No. 1 pick after a standout career at Syracuse. With 18.4 points and 10.3 rebounds per game in his first season, he was selected to the NBA All-Rookie First Team.
The following year, with Coleman averaging 19.8 points and 9.5 rebounds while shooting 50 percent, the Nets improved by 14 wins over his rookie year and made their first playoff appearance since 1985-86.
In 1992-93, with averages of a career high 20.7 points and 11.2 rebounds per game – the first of three seasons in which Coleman averaged a double-double with 20-plus points per game – he was named to the All-NBA Third Team.
Joined by teammate Drazen Petrovic, they were the first Nets to receive the honor since Buck Williams a decade earlier. The Nets continued to improve, finishing 43-39 for their best record since 1983-84.
The next year, Coleman made his only NBA All-Star Game appearance and again was named to the All-NBA Third Team after averaging 20.2 points and 11.3 rebounds per game.
Did you know that Coleman was 12 credits short from finishing his coursework and on the verge of signing a five-year $15 million contract, when he left Syracuse?
Worth noting: A deal back then was unheard of for a rookie in the NBA at the time. Coming from a family with a large military background, he was the first in his family to attend a major university.
To his mother, going to college was a major event and she was not trying to hear anything otherwise. In the words of Ricky Ricardo from I Love Lucy, Derrick had some ‘splaining to do.
“As parents you always want what’s best for your children as far as education,” Derrick Coleman told Scoop B Radio.
“But my mind was made up.”
Although Coleman went to the league, he always promised his mother that he’d go back and finish school. Twenty five years after making that promise Coleman, completed those 12 credits and earned his sociology degree from Syracuse.
The retired fourteen year NBA veteran, began taking online classes during his second stint as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers in the early 2000s.
”As a basketball player you have idle time on your hands,” he said.
“It really wasn’t that hard for me though because I’ve always been an avid reader.”
Not everyone needs a college degree, but everyone needs an education and access to opportunity. When it comes to athletes, many have negative connotations about their academic abilities and accomplishments.
Coleman, like many other former pro athlete have debunked those misconceptions and myths.