Jalen Green did not kill college basketball. Rather, he compared NCAA disparities and NBA inducements and reached a logical conclusion that could open the door to its death.
Green’s decision to bypass the NCAA and opt for the G League makes him a pioneer, high-profile test case for the NBA and its minor league to provide a salaried alternative to the relative servitude that is college hoops.
If anyone should take this leap, it is Green, widely considered the No. 1 prep in the country. NBA agent Aaron Goodwin – who previously shepherded prep-to-pros clients LeBron James and Dwight Howard – also represents Green and, naturally, believes in him.
“The way I’ve done business for 29 years shows people that I have a great eye for talent and that I pick kids that can become great ballplayers, great people on and off the court,” Goodwin told NBC Sports Bay Area. “He’s in that mold.”
One day after Green agreed to his contract on Thursday, he was followed Friday by Isaiah Todd, another top-five prep taking the same route. Expect several others in the coming days and weeks, multiple sources told NBC Sports Bay Area Thursday and Friday.
This is precisely what the NBA had in mind 18 months ago when it created the G League Select Contract as “part of a comprehensive path” for elite preps to become professionals. The league altered its business model closer to those of MLB and the NHL, both of whom allow graduating prep seniors the option of entering the work force immediately after high school.
About time? Nah. Overdue.
Green, 18, spent his senior season at Napa’s Prolific Prep basketball academy, with Napa Christian High as its academic partner. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard, a Fresno native, averaged 31.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.0 assists for the 31-3 Crew.
He has been compared to past and present NBA players, including the late Kobe Bryant, and also has drawn raves from the likes of Dwyane Wade. Green has worked with, get this, Stephen Curry and Luca Doncic.
With his senior year shortened by the COVID-19 pandemic, Green faced three options.
One, he could go to college – reportedly the University of Memphis – for one season and then declare for the 2021 NBA draft.
Two, he could follow the path of LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton, who spent last season playing professionally overseas. Ball reportedly earned less than $100,000, while Hampton reportedly earned much more. Both are eligible for the 2020 NBA draft.
Three, Green could turn pro on home soil by signing a one-year G-League contract worth more than the previously reported $500,000, according to multiple sources, and be eligible for the 2021 NBA draft.
Option No. 3 won, and It wasn’t close. Nor should it be. The G League program also allows for a scholarship should anyone going through the program decide to pursue higher education. Green’s parents left it up to him, and they agree with his choice, according to Goodwin.
“They realize he can’t lose,” he said. “If the NBA really wants to do this program right, and they really want kids to see how great it is to come to the NBA, how could they let this kid fail? They’ve got to put their entire machine behind not only this kid but this program, so they can show others that really believe they’re one-and-done . . . that they can come to the G League and hone your craft with the best we have.”
The movement was crafted by the NBA and the office of former G League president Malcolm Turner. Former Cal star and NBA All-Star Shareef Abdur-Rahim succeeded Turner and now, with Green’s groundbreaking decision, the G League program is atop the mind of all future recruits.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Abdur-Rahim took note of Ball and Hampton leaving high school to play overseas and thought there had to be better way. Consider this their response.
Which puts NCAA in position to respond or surrender, and that monolithic organization can’t be pleased with either option.
The fair response is to share some of the multibillion-dollar pie currently divided among coaches, schools, conferences and the NCAA itself – everybody except the skilled laborers. They’re told a scholarship is pay, and to be careful who buys them a sandwich.
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There is plenty of money to go around in the NCAA sanctum, where rules are subjective and punishment is arbitrary, but there has been an avowed reluctance to share it.
If the NCAA surrenders, the college game will live on. It won’t thrive. It will be light on talent, revenue will start dropping and it will face yet another decision.
Meanwhile, let NCAA basketball consider its future. And let Jalen Green find a future that is everything he ever dreamed it would be.