Basketball great Kawhi Leonard said that when he was a senior in high school, people would always ask him what college he would be going to. And when he would reply, “San Diego State”, they would always ask, “Why?”
I think that’s interesting. But I think I get the question. If Leonard had said, “UCLA”, people would have said, “Cool.” UCLA has many national championships in its basketball history, and it’s in Los Angeles. It’s even in a nice part of Los Angeles, Westwood, adjacent to Beverly Hills and other expensive neighborhoods.
If he had said, “USC”. They might have wondered why he chose that school for basketball. It’s basically a football-oriented school, like Notre Dame or Boise State, that occasionally has a good basketball team, but not really any spectacular history. On the other hand, it’s high in academics and tradition, and it’s a very exclusive private school.
Same goes for Stanford. Stanford is the second-hardest college in the nation to get into. Harvard is the first. Stanford generally has good teams, sometimes not, but for the rest of your life, telling people you went to Stanford will open doors.
The University of California at Berkeley is a top academic school, too. If there’s any aspect of the college experience you want because you’ve seen it in the movies or on TV, you’ll find it at Berkeley. Conservatives loathe it as a beacon of liberalism. Liberals revere it for the same reason.
And then there’s San Diego State. I love San Diego, but it’s not Los Angeles. People from all over the world dream about someday living and working and being successful in Los Angeles. But the same can’t really be said about San Diego. It’s beautiful, though. So are the beaches. So is the city. But it’s not Hollywood and Disneyland and movie stars and the place where you can meet practically anyone you’ve ever heard of. It’s the west coast version of New York, by which I mean it’s the place to be. San Francisco looks more like New York, but Los Angeles is, like New York, one of the crossroads of the world. To grow up longing to be successful and one day live in San Diego is a little like hoping to grow up longing to be successful and one day live in Philadelphia. There are advantages, but it’s not THE place.
San Diego doesn’t seem to take any of that personally. I looked up some websites that promote San Diego, and they don’t have a chip on their shoulder. San Diego claims to be the best city for coffee in the United States. So does Seattle, and I think more people would opt for Seattle. San Diego also claims to have the country’s best pizza, Mexican food and bar scene, which would be news to New York, San Antonio, and every other city with more than a million people.
San Diego usually gets the bad end of the stick when it comes to California sports teams. Right now, the only big four sports team (football, baseball, basketball, ice hockey) remaining in San Diego is baseball’s San Diego Padres, who in their 50 seasons as a team have been to the World Series twice, but have never won it. The Chargers were the only NFL team in southern California for many years, but now San Diego doesn’t have a team, and Los Angeles has two. There have been three professional basketball franchises in San Diego, including the NBA’s San Diego Rockets (who moved to Houston) and San Diego Clippers (who moved to Los Angeles) and the ABA’s San Diego Conquistadors, who changed their name to the San Diego Sails during their fourth season, then ceased operations following the 11th of 84 scheduled games. San Diego has never attracted better than a minor league hockey team. And by the way, even the Padres almost moved to Washington, D.C. in 1974 before Ray Kroc, the owner of McDonald’s, purchased them.
As far as the California state education system goes, San Diego State has never been looked upon as a top school. Even in its own city, it ranks third academically behind the University of California at San Diego and the University of San Diego.
On the good side, if you want to live somewhere with nice weather and an ocean that isn’t an island and isn’t as crowded as Los Angeles, San Diego could be your destination. I said once that I longed to live in a place where the average daily temperature was 75 and the average nightly temperature was 60 pretty much all year round. And that’s San Diego.
Also, did you know Kawhi Leonard went there?