From his journalistic exploits with The Player’s Tribune to averaging over 20 points per game for the Portland Trailblazers, Lehigh graduate C.J. McCollum’s accomplishments have made him an easy figure for Mountain Hawks to stand behind.
When the Trailblazers traveled to Philadelphia to face the hometown 76ers, fans of the former four-year college basketball star were given a prime opportunity to show their Lehigh pride.
On January 16, more than 100 Lehigh supporters gathered inside the comforts of the Wells Fargo Center’s club suites to participate in “VIP Night at the Sixers” — an exclusive event honoring Class of 2013 graduate, C.J. McCollum.
“I appreciate everyone who has followed me,” McCollum said after the game to the large group of attendees. “I’m proud to be a Lehigh alum. We have a very strong alumni network.”
For the event’s attendees, the evening’s festivities included special courtside access to watch an early pregame shootaround, food and beverages within the arena’s club suites, a raffle for an autographed C.J. McCollum jersey, and the main event, an entertaining game between the Sixers and the Trailblazers which ended in a 114-89 victory for Philadelphia.
On his big night in front of the Lehigh faithful, McCollum — the hero of the 2012 Mountain Hawks team who upset the Duke Blue Devils in the NCAA Tournament — scored 13 points, which made him the second leading scorer for Portland.
Despite Portland’s loss, long-time fans of McCollum are ecstatic to celebrate how far the young guard has grown since his days on South Mountain.
“I don’t think [C.J.’s future success] was ever a question,” said Jack Lule, Lehigh University chair of journalism and communication. “It was quite obvious, quite early in CJ’s time at Lehigh, that he was really talented at basketball and journalism. It was also quite obvious that he was going to pursue both.”
In an era when college basketball players have the option to enter the NBA draft after their freshman year, the two-time Patriot League Player of the Year decided to stay at Lehigh to complete his bachelor of arts degree in journalism — a decision that he outlined in a Sportingnews article titled Why I’m returning to Lehigh for my senior year. After his senior year, McCollum was the first senior drafted in the 2013 NBA Draft, selected 10th overall by Portland.
In the Sportingnews article, McCollum outlined the importance of his education, and the on and off-court benefits he foresaw he’d be reaping today.
“By returning for my senior year, I give myself a chance to complete my degree at a prestigious university, while putting myself in a position to be successful no matter what happens in my future,” McCollum said in the 2012 article.
By valuing his college degree from Lehigh as an equal to his NBA career, McCollum boasts a résumé that will extend his professional life beyond the basketball court.
Since receiving his degree, he has used his journalism background to his advantage by writing exclusive sports stories for various media outlets, including NBA.com, Sports Illustrated, and Derek Jeter’s international online publication, The Player’s Tribune.
“I tell people all the time: He was a nationally known journalist before he was a nationally known basketball player,” Lule said.
McCollum also hosted radio shows on SiriusXM, and currently hosts a weekly radio show on Portland’s 107.5 named Playlist, featuring a mix of Trailblazers commentary and his personal music preferences.
McCollum’s impact on Lehigh was easily seen during “VIP Night at the Sixers,” where attendance and well-deserved praise stood as a “thank you” for being yet another positive embodiment of the Lehigh community.