While nobody is very surprised to hear about all the corruption in college basketball uncovered by an FBI probe into agents, shoe companies, money managers and coaches, I'm not hearing too many people talking about the NBA's role in all of that.
The NBA has been complicit in the corruption for years. The league has been, at the very least, the great enabler.
Professional basketball has been hiding its intentions in regard to players entering its league for a long time. The league has taken two stances in regard to players entering the NBA directly out of high school. Let me summarize those for you:
- Some of the kids don't make it in the league and end up without a college scholarship and penniless. We don't want this to happen and thus, want them in college so they can turn into upstanding citizens with a backup plan to pro hoops. We need to protect these kids from themselves.
- A high school career in basketball isn't enough time for our scouts to evaluate their NBA future. It's hard enough to project players into the NBA after a couple of years in college -- doing so after high school is almost impossible. Plus, these players just aren't ready for the NBA.
Of course, reason No. 2 is much more important than the first one. The NBA really doesn't care a lot about the kids who don't make it. The concern is much more about wasting first-round draft money on players who aren't good enough to make their team. And, of course, the NBA always enjoyed it when college players were stuck in college for a full four years -- which was just enough time for them to become big-name, ready-made pro stars who could generate spectator and TV money from the day they entered the league.
Just a few months back, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver went public with the idea that the "one-and-done" rule should be changed or modified:
“My sense is it’s not working for anyone,” Silver said Thursday night before Game 1 of the N.B.A. finals. “It’s not working for the college coaches and athletic directors I hear from. They’re not happy with the current system. And I know our teams aren’t happy either, in part because they don’t necessarily think the players who are coming into the league are getting the kind of training that they would expect to see.”
Again, one reason for changing the rule would be that players coming into the league aren't "getting the kind of training that they would expect to see." In other words, Silver seemed to be in favor of extending the time players should stay in college, rather than do the right thing: Drop the one-and-done rule entirely and allow players make a choice about their chosen profession after graduating high school.
Athletes have that choice in baseball, golf, tennis, soccer and just about any other sport but basketball and football. (And if you think this basketball scandal is big, just wait and see what happens if the Feds ever start looking into football -- where the real money is.)
The blue-chip players are the ones getting those six-figure checks from the shoe companies. Allow them to enter the NBA out of high school and you solve a lot of these problems. By the way, a good portion of those players want no part of those college scholarships and prove it when they league those universities after basically one semester to chase the NBA dream.
If those players were allowed to enter the NBA immediately, would there still be corruption? I'm sure there would be. But not nearly as much. There wouldn't be a lot of money left after the cream of the crop gets its share. Young basketball players shouldn't be made to be criminals because they took money for their basketball talent out of high school. It should be their right to become professionals immediately.
And the NBA should get out of the way and allow it.