I want to talk about college basketball today notwithstanding the fact that there was no NCAA Tournament this year nor are we anywhere near the NBA Draft. The issue at hand is that a 5-Star high school recruit named Jalen Green has decided to take up an NBA offer to play in the G-League for a year – reportedly for a salary of $500K – instead of going to college to play basketball there for “tuition room and board”. Some folks have jumped to the conclusion that this is the demise of men’s college basketball.
I think they are wrong; in fact, I think this will highlight the value of college basketball as a competitive sport worth watching and as a way for top-shelf talent to develop their skills and their “brands”. Let me explain…
I have never seen Jalen Green play basketball; I take his 5-Star Rating as a fact and I recall that some previous 5-Star Rated players have turned out to be great while some others have turned out to be mediocre. I will stipulate here that he will be great; I wish him good fortune in his basketball career.
Having said that, college basketball survived the absence of players such as:
- Kobe Bryant
- Kevin Garnett
- Dwight Howard
- LeBron James
- Shawn Kemp
- Moses Malone
I suspect the game of college basketball will also survive the absence of Jalen Green. Even if the NBA changes its rule about drafting players to allow every high school basketball player who wants to “jump directly to the NBA” to do so, I think college basketball will survive. I don’t think it will take too many years of high schoolers having free access to the NBA for the lesson to be learned that it is far more difficult to earn your way to playing time – and a continued roster spot – in the NBA than it is to declare for the draft and to be drafted. Plenty of players drafted under the current “more restrictive” system spend little or no time actually in the NBA.
College basketball will also demonstrate that it is a better place for a player to develop his “brand”. There were G-League games on TV this year and I would find them as I grazed through the channels on my cable TV sports package. I could not tell you the attendance at any of the game snippets I saw but of this I am sure:
- Had I been in the arena at tip-off time and decided to “count the house” in the early parts of the game, I would have completed my count and settled back to watch the game with about 9 or 10 minutes left in the first quarter.
No one goes to those games – and the TV ratings for G-League games were better than infomercials for miraculous new vacuum cleaners that air at 3:00 AM but not a lot better. The new wave of high school phenoms earning a tidy $500K to play basketball will do so in relative anonymity. That does nothing positive for “developing one’s brand”. There is a recent example of this:
- LaMelo Ball is supposed to be a top Draft pick this year. He gained fame a few years ago when Lavar Ball and Lonzo Ball were ubiquitous in every media outlet. LaMelo took his talents to Lithuania and Australia and arrives at the Draft with a certain level of “fame”.
- Compare that to Zion Williamson from last year at this time who played part of a season at Duke.
Being totally objective, Zion Williamson had a far more defined and refined “brand” when he came up to the Draft. I believe that will continue to be the case so long as there is a March Madness – as I hope there will next year in the absence of a second wave of COVID-19. The allure of college basketball is its competition and its player development. Those aspects of college basketball will not go away because Jalen Green is playing in the G-League next year.
By the way, it was not all that long ago when Brandon Jennings decided to skip college basketball and to play a year in one of the European Pro Leagues. Jennings was drafted and played about 10 years in the NBA for a handful of teams. He too was alleged to be setting a trend that would severely hamper college basketball and change things radically. I suggest that Jalen Green and Brandon Jennings are remarkably similar in that aspect of their careers and their “brands”.
Moving on … A few days ago, the NY Post reported that Joe Buck had turned down a $1M offer to do “play-by-play” from a porn site. I suspect that some of you think this is a joke, so here is the link to that report. The porn site:
“…has created a special section on its website for sports commentators to provide live play-by-play commentary for live adult cam shows for blind and visually impaired users …”
How politically correct and incorrect at the same time…
Finally, a timely observation from Dwight Perry in the Seattle Times:
“Not that college athletics are totally sticklers for the 6-foot rule or anything, but even William & Mary are social distancing.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………