One-and-done has become the normal trajectory for the top players in men’s college basketball after the NBA instituted an age requirement for eligibility in their Draft. The change has led to a lot of self-righteous indignation on the part of “educators,” believing the NBA offers a poor substitute for a college degree. That argument is the same that led to the NBA’s age requirement in the first place. But now, with the NBA set to debate the NBPA â€” whenever they decide to elect an executive director to replace Billy Hunter â€” about increasing that age requirement to 20 years of age, and the wide open NBA futures of some of the top players in this year’s freshman class, it’s opened the floodgates on the debate once again. Bobby Knight has walked right through that newly open terrain with his recent comments that the NBA has “raped” college basketball.
Ever since Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament on the first weekend (with both performing well below expectations and a possible drop in the draft coming for Wiggins), the theory is they’ve played their last college basketball. Both players are projected to go within the first three picks of the loaded 2014 NBA Draft, and so former coach and professional curmudgeon, Bobby Knight, has decided this is the perfect time to lob grenades at the lure of NBA money and security over the sanctity of a bachelors degree.
“If I were involved with the NBA I wouldn’t want a 19-year-old or a 20-year-old kid, to bring into all the travel and all the problems that exist in the NBA,” Knight said on Mike and Mike Tuesday morning. “I would want a much more mature kid. I would want a kid that maybe I’ve been watching on another team and now he’s 21, 22 years old instead of 18 or 19, and I might trade for that kid.”
“On top of it all, the NBA does a tremendous, gigantic disservice to college basketball. It’s as though they’ve raped college basketball in my opinion,” Knight said. “Major League Baseball has the best idea of all. Three years before they’ll take a kid out of college, then they have a minor league system that they put the kids in. I’m sure that if the NBA followed the same thing, there would be a lot of kids in a minor league system that still were not good enough to play in the major NBA.”
Man, we miss Bobby Knight in the news, but he couldn’t be more wrong with these comments. While an education is really important, there’s zero chance any of these guys are going to be pulling in even close to the lowest tier of guaranteed money a first round NBA draft pick makes. The NBA might encourage freshman to declare after their lone college season with guaranteed dollars for the top 30 selected, and there might be some that fall by the wayside after going undrafted, but is the onus on the NBA to change so they actually prevent kids from making the money they’ve got staring them in the face? The story of Lenny Cooke might strike fear into any top-rated high school basketball player with dreams of going pro, but the guy doesn’t have any regrets.
Jacob Harmon at Gothic Ginobili wrote a letter to Joel Embiid this morning, entitled, “Don’t Stay In School: A Personal Plea to Joel Embiid (and others).” There’s something to be said for grabbing the money when you can, too, and Harmon prefaced his epistolary tale with a famous exchange Charles Barkley once had:
Question: “Did you graduate from Auburn?”
Chuck: “No, but I have a couple people working for me who did.”
Athletes have a short lifespan, so why shouldn’t they jump at the money when they can? It’s a whole boat load of money, and that’s the American Dream, right (let me take this moment to personally assure those reading I’m about as far from a Horatio Alger enthusiast as there is, but even I see the inherent unfairness of the whole thing)?
There is a recent example of how staying in school can backfire, too, at least in terms of guaranteed money when a player is first picked.
Marcus Smart would have definitely been a lottery selection in the weak 2013 Draft, or possibly even the No. 1 pick overall, but he elected to stay in school, providing further fodder for the Bobby Knight’s of the world. But after a run-in with a Texas Tech fan, and a poor showing during the NCAA Tournament, Smart isn’t going to be cashing in for nearly as much if he declares this summer. Deadspin’s Billy Haisley agrees, writing a piece with a similar paradoxical theme as Harmon wrote for Gothic Ginobili. Haisley titles his missive, “Marcus Smart ‘Did The Right Thing’ And Look What It Got Him?”
Dime‘s co-founder even made this point with Wiggins before the college season began to near universal disagreement from readers and fans alike. Many believed it was going against the basic tenets of an education coming first and an NBA career being second. But while Wiggins showed enough towards the end of the season â€” with Embiid out following a scary back issue â€” to be a pretty good lock for a top-3 pick come June, he isn’t the overwhelming choice for No. 1 pick, like he was before the college season began. And that will affect his pocketbook, at least at first. Even though Wiggins doesn’t need the money, a lot of these student athletes do. Why do you think Boosters play such a large role in the college coffer corruptions we see pop up now and then?
Putting aside our own personal feelings on the issue (college isn’t for everyone, even if a kid isn’t a possible pro athlete), how can anyone say that the NBA is at fault when it’s already rankled some by putting an age limit in place at all. You have to be 19 to enter the NBA Draft, which is forcing high schoolers to go to college (even if they don’t have the grades, ambition to learn, or the time needed for college to be an enriching experience because they’re playing basketball all the time), or â€” like Brandon Jennings â€” ply their trade far from home in the isolated world of European hoops.
Education is important, but the NCAA is a monopoly of the highest order, and colleges are getting outrageous amounts of money milking the teat that is the one-and-done player. Meanwhile, while colleges rake it in like the guy at the table who can see through all the cards, the NBA’s current age requirement is still preventing a largely poor, minority-heavy group of athletes from the same opportunity to make money by declaring for the NBA draft. The hypocrisy of this sham system is what ticks us off most of all, not the capitalism or free market argument in and of itself.
Bobby Knight knew the perfect verb to utter when he spoke about the NBA taking advantage of college hoops, but that same polarizing verb should be inverted to describe the way colleges are taking advantage of their high profile “student-athletes.”
Do you agree with Bobby?
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