Sports are supposed to be fun.
That belief is at the core of why I think sports work – why we love them as much as we do. I remind myself that sports are supposed to be fun every time I get fired up, every time I get angry at something I see as an injustice. So I almost didn’t write this article, and then Bob Knight said this:
“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. 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.”
I know the NBA has a lot of problems. If you read my stuff you know I think the NBA has a lot of problems:
– The Lottery
– “Protected Pick” trading
– The fact that they literally play music during games
– The season is too long
– Regular season games don’t matter
– Big-market teams have too much power
– The first round of the NBA Playoffs is useless
– The first quarter of any NBA game is useless
– Superstars have too much power
– The notion of max contracts in conjunction with a salary cap
I could really go all day people. Seriously, I could probably write three articles about all the things I would fix in the NBA without so much as looking up from laptop or even taking a bathroom break.
But the notion that the NBA is somehow doing athletes a disservice by allowing them to make millions of dollars professionally after one year of college is the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard in my lifetime as it pertains to the organization of sports.
And I get it people; I don’t need your useless lecture about what the problem is. I get that there is a problem – I just hate the solution that you’re proposing.
The quality of play in the NBA, on average, may be as poor as I’ve seen in my lifetime. Additionally, many one-and-done players (a) underachieve at the college level (b) underachieve at the professional level.
What Guys Like Bob Knight Wants You To Believe:
One-and-done kids haven’t developed enough in college basketball before being drafted into the NBA. However, the NBA is so desperate for talent that they draft kids that aren’t ready anyways, doing themselves, the athletes, and college basketball a disservice. Therefore, the solution is, force the NBA/NCAAB to either change to an MLB system built around the 3-year college rule and use the NBA D-League as development like the minors in baseball, or just force kids to stay in college for two or more years. It works for the NFL, it works for the MLB, why not the NBA?
What Bob Knight Actually Thinks:
Boy, it sure would be great for College Basketball if guys like Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid had to stay and play another year. Imagine the drama! Imagine the star power! The TV ratings! That’d be great for college basketball!
What the Truth Is:
– Basketball is a very different sport than baseball and football
– There’s no definitive evidence that proves that college coaches and competition can develop athletes better than NBA coaches and professional competition
– NCAA basketball and football pays for most other college athletic programs (and then some)
– NCAA basketball and football players’ scholarships and the rules associated with them are criminally unfair in the context of how any other organization works in America
– Most NCAA basketball and football players are inner-city kids from poor families and could benefit tremendously from NBA money – denying them of their right to go make that money so colleges can use them to profit millions is the real “rape”
Truth #1: Basketball is a very different sport than baseball and football
My least-favorite run-on sentence on talk radio that you hear every time we have this debate:
Yay cool the baseball system really works, it’s awesome, I know, baseball has a farm system with three semi-pro teams and what not and it’s the best system and all the other sports should be just like it why doesn’t everyone just be just like baseball come on NBA get with the program!
STOOOOOP. Let’s pump the brakes for a second and imagine a scenario where an NBA roster that has a MAX of 15 guys needs a three-team semi-pro system. Basketball isn’t baseball, and it isn’t football. In the NBA, you pretty much have the athletic ability to participate or you don’t. It’s pretty cut and dried most of the time. The development or, learning curve just isn’t as steep as in baseball or football. Have we seen baseball talents that were ready to jump from high school to the MLB starting lineups? I mean, I guess, yea, maybe a few. But a heck of a lot less than in basketball. Have there been football talents ready for the pros after high school? Not really at all, no. Even freakshows like Jadeveon Clowney have to show what they can do at the college level to get looked at. A kid jumping out of the stadium and 360 dunking in a high school basketball game translates to the NBA in ways that Clowney trouncing some poor high school O-lineman doesn’t translate into the NFL.
Additionally, we have to remember the nature of the sports we’re talking about here. In the NBA you can start FIVE dudes. What does that mean? That means the only sports parallel to Lebron leaving Cleveland is Manning leaving Indy, and that’s only because he’s a transcendent QB. In the NBA having ONE good dude is a game-changer. If an NFL team grabs one star kid in the draft that pans out, fantastic. You still need about four or five other star-level pieces to be a viable playoff contender. In the NBA, sometimes just grabbing one dude (even if he’s not even ready yet) and you’re gonna scare some people (See: Anthony Davis 2013-2014 season).
Truth #2: There’s no definitive evidence that proves that college coaches and competition can develop athletes better than NBA coaches and professional competition
Let’s run a quick experiment:
You get to create an NBA All-Star Team made up of players who attended any one college throughout the entire history of the NBA and we’ll see how they stack up against my All-High School team (players who skipped college).
C: Dwight Howard
C/PF: Tyson Chandler
F: Kevin Garnett
F/G: Lebron James
G: Kobe Bryant
6th Man: Darryl Dawkins
* Moses Malone went straight from high school to the ABA, not the NBA so technically I guess I could have included him but I’m playing Devil’s Advocate against myself here a bit.
** Shawn Kemp enrolled in college but never played a game before hitting the NBA scene.
Let’s ignore for a second that the high school to NBA trend didn’t truly start until Garnett did it in 95′ and therefore my sample size is drastically lower than the theoretical college team. What college can you point to that produces a lineup even close to my high school one?
C/F: James Worthy
F: Rasheed Wallace
F: Vince Carter
G: Michael Jordan
G: Raymond Felton
6th man: Jerry Stackhouse
C: Emeka Okafor
F: Rudy Gay
F: Rip Hamilton
G: Ray Allen
G: Kemba Walker
6th man: Ben Gordon
F: Carlos Boozer
F: Christian Laettner
F: Luol Deng
G: Grant Hill
G: JJ Redick
6th man: Shane Battier
I’ll give Magic, maybe Zach Randolph and a couple role players
Some combination of Kareem, Kevin Love, Reggie Miller, Bill Walton and some role players
Webber, Hardaway, Jamal Crawford (maybe a 6th man?), Jalen Rose (streeeetch)
Surely Kansas right!?
The Stilt, The Truth… Nick Collison, Drew Gooden (streeeetch) Mario Chalmers (streeetch) that’s about it
Oh Kentucky! Bastion of NBA Superstardom, obviously…
Rondo, Prince, “‘Toine” Walker, Anthony Davis (rising star, legit I admit), maybe Bledsoe at the point?
I’m really trying here. I’m racking my brain, please if you’ve got a team I’m not thinking of that even comes close to my high school squad, send me or Filler a tweet/email.
What’s my point? Every player is different. There’s absolutely no proof, no evidence you can show me that Andrew Wiggins will be a better NBA player at 25 if he spends another year getting coached by Bill Self instead of getting better by competing against next-level talent next year.
For the record, for those of you stomping your feet saying “These kids are too young and they would benefit from at least one or two more years in college,” I AGREE WITH YOU! In conversations with all my UConn-fan buddies I feel like at some point in our talks I wind up saying, “Man, I really think Rudy Gay should’ve stayed another year with Calhoun. He would’ve been a star!” But I have no proof. There’s no guarantee of that.
Truth #3: NCAA basketball and football pays for most other college athletic programs (and then some)
DISCLAIMER: I blatantly plagiarized this data from some dude who is way smarter and has way more time on his hands than I do:
Additionally, I challenge you to read this fascinating article about the lucrative nature of men’s college basketball profits without vomiting on your laptop when you realize that athletes can get their scholarships cut once they’re injured. (But more on that later… don’t worry, I’ll get to it)
So here’s what talking heads on my radio say next:
“Well, what these kids don’t realize is that the revenue from basketball and football is being used to fund scholarships for tens of thousands of other athletes and to fund other college athletic programs that can cost millions of dollars.”
Guess what? I actually buy that argument… to a point. Quick question: how many scholarships can I buy with one year of Nick Saban’s $7 million salary? How many entire football programs can I fund with $7 million dollars? I wonder how many kids we could put through college on a badminton scholarship with Mark Emmert’s $1.7 million salary. Hey talking heads, how much does it cost to do a shit terrible job at running the NCAA?
Truth #4: NCAA basketball and football players’ scholarships and the rules associated with them are criminally unfair in the context of how any other organization works in America
I swear this is the last article a really smart dude has written about how piss-poor pathetic it is that the NCAA won’t even negotiate with kids who deserve to get a lot more than they’re even asking for. I swear.
Excuse me, I need a moment to wipe my tears off my keyboard.
Isn’t this America? I’m sorry, but last I checked this is America, right? I love that uber-conservatives who bitch and moan about free market politics are the same idiots jumping up and down talking about how compensating NCAA players who bring in millions for fat, old, white people at the tippity tops of universities is “against tradition.” Well, guess what, your tradition sucks.
Look, I’m not saying I want to see Jabari Parker signing a two-year $1.5 million deal with Duke before he commits. That’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m saying it’s asinine that until recently we didn’t even entertain the idea that these kids should be allowed to unionize and maybe get, I dunno a stipend? An across the board stipend of $1000 a month? Guaranteed healthcare benefits? Unconditional scholarships? We haven’t even let them COME TO THE FREAKING TABLE to discuss this stuff! We’ve literally said that it was illegal for them to unionize for years!
- Read the statistics about how much gross revenue college basketball/football generates in 2014
- Consider the fact that we promote these kids on commercials, plaster JOHNNY FOOTBALL over dramatic background music before a game and then punish him for getting paid to sign his name on someone else’s property.
- Remember we allow them no significant stipend, that colleges aren’t allowed to even fly athlete’s families to games to watch them play
- Remember they’re given conditional scholarships, no seat at the table
- Google how much Mark Emmert makes in salary
And if you still believe that the NCAA system is perfectly fair for the sake of tradition and “doing it the way it’s always been,” then I’m just going to lump you into the same group of people who tweet racist stuff when foreign languages are spoken in Super Bowl commercials.
Truth #5: Most NCAA basketball and football players are inner-city kids from poor families and could benefit tremendously from NBA money – denying them of their right to go make that money so colleges can use them to profit millions is the real “rape”
Before I get to my real point, let me address the last and final talking head argument I hate:
“Most of these kids will never make it to the pros, scholarships are all they get. When you start talking about compensating players, you threaten the little guy who never gets that shot at the next level.”
What they don’t realize is that they just proved my point. For a lot of guys, college is it for them. And the way the system is set up now, they’re hung out to dry when it’s all said in done whether they graduate or not. How marketable is a guy who used to play O-line for Rutgers and graduated with a degree in general studies? He’s just a decently educated 300 lb. fat dude now. Pat yourselves on the back NCAA.
Or what about the wrestler who gets a concussion and loses his scholarship? What about that little guy? Where’s his degree? Where’s his healthcare?
I get it guys, it’s scary. It’s a “slippery slope.” It won’t be perfect, and it needs a lot of work, but we have to do better than we’re doing now. There’s no reason revenue sharing with the players can resemble a situation where that money is put to use to ensure their futures are taken care of, despite how they wind up performing on the basketball court.
The NCAA crying that they are the victim of a selfish NBA-imposed “one and done” system is outrageous. Here’s what happened:
Under the old system, player A, lets call him, Lebron James or Kwame Brown (two extremes of the spectrum), could forgo college for the NBA. Guys like Coach K, Izzo, or Matta could make their pitch, but they knew their chances of grabbing him were low because the kid was gonna go get paid, no doubt. So they focused on building their teams around Christian Laettners. Their next-level potential weren’t a sure thing, but you knew after two years of grooming in the Duke system, we were in for some fantastic, high-quality college basketball.
The kids that wanted to go to college for the experience of playing at that level did exactly that (SEE: Carmelo Anthony). We had “Fab Five” type teams that on the surface seemed to be polar opposites to teams like Duke, but they wanted to be together and they wanted to dominate the NCAA and they made fantastic tourney runs together in the process.
Bottom line up front: The college game was better without the one and done rule. No we didn’t get to see Lebron and Garnett play in the NCAA tournament but there was still star power. And most important of all, we had Kansas teams made up of juniors and seniors instead of Andrew Wigginses who are so inconsistent and inexperienced that they put up 40 one night and 4 the next.
What we have now is a system where college teams are good if:
1. Their stars decide to stick around for some crazy reason
2. Their recruiting class from the previous year pans out
Think about it, every year our preseason evaluation of Kentucky is based solely on how many Top 100 recruits they locked up the year before.
You’ve taken one and done kids that are going to be gone anyways, forced them to play college basketball when they don’t really want to, and you wonder why the quality of play is down and why Duke/Kansas get upset before the Sweet Sixteen.
Here’s a crazy thought:
Let’s make the NCAA more attractive to young men coming out of high school. So instead of forcing them to play, they actually want to play college basketball. Because if you want to play college basketball, then maybe you’ll stick around and actually get good at playing college basketball.
Maybe if we gave Jabari Parker a good reason to stay in school other than, “Well, you might get better than if you jumped to the NBA,” he would stay in school.
Let’s start by having the NCAA come to bargaining table. Let’s start by admitting that every year universities, NBC, ABC, CBS, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, and the NCAA make billions off of college athletics and iconic players like Parker. Can we admit that at least?
Next, you say OK you’re a star athlete and since we’re going to profit off you playing for us, we’re going to give you a stipend of $1000 a month. We’re going to give you a guaranteed scholarship so if you tear and ACL and you’re never the same again we’re still going to guarantee you at least get to graduate with a degree. Let’s give them some healthcare benefits. LET’S GIVE THEM A SEAT AT THE TABLE.
But that’s not what happens. But there’s nothing like that because Mark Emmert and the powers that be in the NCAA are the most stubborn and selfish human beings in sports. Long story short, a few years back the NCAA kind of passively admitted that their hypocritical system of giving college players nothing but a non-guaranteed scholarship in exchange for exploiting the fact that they have to play in college to make the pros was slowly breaking. They made it seem like they were super-duper serious about addressing the issue. They commissioned a committee that was going to look into this super-duper serious problem that they were super-duper serious about addressing and…? The student-athletes had no representation. No seat at the freaking table.
I hope Andrew Wiggins, the Harrison twins, and Jabari Parker stay in school. They play for great coaches and I genuinely think they’d benefit from another year. But if I were them I probably wouldn’t.
Remember that the NCAA crucified Reggie Bush for his family receiving benefits from USC. They trashed him for things like allowing USC to pay for his family to come and see him play football games. They embarrassed him. Stripped USC of wins, took his Heisman, soiled his reputation. And throughout the whole process remember that you could buy autographed Reggie Bush memorabilia from games that the NCAA vacated. That inspires a kind of rage within me that I can’t describe.
We take young kids, primarily poor, black kids from the inner city, we make millions off them, tell them that hopefully they make their money at the pro level, and then we shit on them when they leave college after one year with nothing to show for it.
Hey Bob Knight? THAT is rape. Shut your mouth.