Big League Clu’s thoughts on players who leave college early to enter the NBA draft.
As the college basketball season has come to a end, and Kentucky fans are rioting in celebration of the Wildcats’ national championship (and one man is getting his foot amputated), I have decided to investigate the life of an average NCAA basketball star waining between going pro or staying in college for another season. I will be breaking down the pros and cons that these athletes will be facing by leaving school early for this summer’s NBA draft.
Across the country, you see many underclassmen trying to decide whether or not to stay at college for another season, or go ahead and enter the NBA draft. Many college sports fans hold their breaths hoping that their hometown superstar decides to play for their Alma mater for another year. A little part of them dies when they find out that that player has declared himself for the NBA draft.
This off-season, NCAA stars like Syracuse’s Dion Waiters, Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and basically half of Kentucky’s Roster (Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb, or Marquis Teague) have either already declared themselves for the draft, or have to make the decision by the end of the month. There are a couple of options for these athletes. If they choose to go into the NBA draft but do not hire an agent, they can withdraw from the draft and still come back to school. If they do plan on hiring an agent, then its sayonara, because they are no longer eligible.
The Pros of Leaving Early
For some players, making the decision to go pro can be a relatively easy one. If you are a good athlete, your family is struggling to make ends meet, and they schlepped you to basketball practice every morning for 15 years at 5 AM and got you the tutoring you needed to have the grades to get into college… hey, now they’re looking for something in return. If you are a household name in the college basketball world like Naismith Award winner Anthony Davis, All Big Ten Forward Jared Sullinger, Big East defensive player of the year Fab Melo (Melo was declared ineligible for the NCAA Tournament due to low grades and has since left Syracuse in pursuit of the NBA) or even Big East 6th man of the year Dion Waiters, then you are already halfway there.
The opportunity is at hand to leave early for the draft, hire an agent, get drafted by a professional team, get that guaranteed contract and begin the process of making millions upon millions of dollars. I mean its a capitalistic economy right? Make as much money as possible! I know I would if I were 19-20 years old and given the same opportunities. Its a no-brainer!
The Cons of Leaving Early
Along with the pros of entering the NBA draft, there are also some clear risks involved. We have all seen this scenario before….a stellar NCAA player gets drafted by in the top 5 of the 1st round in the NBA draft and they get to a nice big juicy contract to play. However, they dont really develop the skills necessary to turn into a serviceable NBA player. They average 10-15 minutes a game and end up riding the bench for two years, eventually getting minimal playing time, released or traded to another team. When they again do nothing on their second team, then what happens if there isn’t a team that wants to offen another contract? They have to retire and start finding a way to make a living. They can always fall back on that college degree right?….oh wait…yeah about that, you left school early to make those millions of dollars that you seem to have to now stretch a little bit because you cannot find work.
This a scenario that seems to happen far too many times in the NBA. We’ve seen it recently with players like Hasheem Thabeet and Greg Oden (who actually has the talent to be a phenomenal NBA player, but just has had the worst of luck in regards to injuries…and may never play in the NBA due to that). There is always a risk of a career-ending injury, or just underachieving because of an early departure from college, where players learn the fundamentals that turn them into great NBA players. Leaving early also diminishes the integrity of the game. Instead of having the experience of four years of collegiate basketball under a wise head coach such as Jim Boehiem, John Calhoun, Roy Williams or Mike Krzyzewski who can teach players the intangibles of the game, and give them the capability to become leaders, you get freshman who come in and think they’re the best player to ever put on a uniform. Young players look first at the money that is being dangled above them by the NBA and value the education second.
College and Professional basketball are nothing like they were in the 80s and even the 90s, when you had players who stayed 3-4 years in college and became phenomenal NBA superstars. Guys like Gary Payton, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Patrick Ewing, Shaq, Charles Barkley and, of course, Michael Jordan all stayed in college and got their education.While you do see a few players who have such amazing talent that they are able to make the leap from High School straight to the pros (Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, and Lebron James) and hey are highly intelligent men (Lebron is working on investment deals in his spare time…what a guy!), these are few and far between.
What do League Officials Have to Say About Players Leaving Early?
Numerous sources that I have read note that NBA commissioner David Stern’s dislike for the way that the current CBA rules are set for college athletes who would like to leave early for the NBA draft. It is quoted that commissioner David Stern would like to add another year to the rule, making it so that a player would not be eligible to leave college until at least AFTER his sophomore year. But it does not stop there. You also see some NBA owners showing their dislike for the current rules as well, most notably from Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. According to ESPN Dallas, Cuban has said: “I just think there’s a lot more kids that get ruined coming out early or going to school trying to be developed to come out early than actually make it. For every Kobe, Kevin Garnett, Carmelo Anthony, or LeBron James, there’s 100 Lenny Cookes.”
For all of you who do not know who Lenny Cooke is, he was a High school basketball star from New York, who declared for the 2002 draft and went un-drafted. He exhausted his eligibility, and couldn’t go back to high school or college hoops, effectively ruining his career. Cuban also said, “It’s about kids’ lives that we’re ruining. Even if you’re a first-round pick and you have two or three years of guaranteed money, then what? Because if you’re a bust and it turns out you just can’t play in the NBA, your ‘Rocks for Jocks’ one year of schooling isn’t going to get you real far.”
How do I Feel About Players Leaving Early?
I feel that a minimum two-year stay in college should be made MANDATORY by the NBA. If you look elsewhere in professional sports, you rarely see athletes coming out of high school and going into the pros. The NFL requires that college football players stay until their Junior year before they can be declare themselves eligible for the NFL draft. It’s one thing for kids who want to go pro and make money if they have the talent to do so, its a whole different ball game if you are sacrificing your education for it, and here is a reason why people need to reconsider:
How many collegiate division one basketball programs are there in the country? 300? Those schools have are 15-20 players on their basketball teams. Thats about 4500-5000 athletes. Now, how many professional basketball teams are there? 30? with 15 players on those roster. This means 450 professional athletes on those NBA teams, which consist of veterans, all stars, bench players and reserves. So therefore, I would think that maybe 3-5% of all players that come from college have what it takes to be a good player on any NBA team.
It drives me nuts Whenever I hear people who TRY to compare Jordan, Bird, Magic, Shaq, etc. to Lebron, Kobe, Dwight Howard, etc. because there is no comparison! Those players went to college, got their education and still rank among the best of the best in the NBA. Obviously I understand that there is a ton of money to be made, but lets face it: if you are not good enough to play in the NBA, then what do you have to fall back on? You are stuck without a college degree, and those 2-3 years of guaranteed money can only take you so far. Kids now a days are forgetting how important education is. The NBA is a business, but in order to keep the integrity of the game, they need to set some sort of rules that will be put into place and not be changed.
Featured image courtesy of: Mark Humphrey/Associated Press
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