College basketball is one of the most popular sports in the United States today. It is looked at as a pure form of the game and the national championship of college basketball is revered by many and a lifetime goal for some. Despite this reverence of the sport at that level, there has been a disturbing abuse of college basketball progressing over the past few years. More and more players today are using college basketball not as a time to perfect their abilities in the sport, but instead to use it as a springboard to the pros. College basketball players have been abandoning their education in return for a sink or swim shot at the pros. This trend is undermining the true mission of a university and causing distress in the lives of many young athletes.
To best illustrate how this trend of leaving college early, or forgoing it entirely, has gained popularity over throughout the decade, we will look at some statistics. In the 1998 NBA draft, there were 33 underclassmen available for the draft. Of those 33, there were nineteen juniors, five sophomores, two freshmen, and four high school students. If you think that 33 is high for the number of early entries into the draft, look at the figure for 1997, this was 40! In the 1996 draft, only two of the top fifteen picks graduated from college.
Not to mention that only fifteen of the 29 that came out early in ’96 were actually selected in the draft. Now, with all the talk about how college is the time where players truly develop their skills and get themselves ready both mentally and physically for the demands of playing on a professional game. Being in the NBA is no walk in the park by far. Many very capable basketball players out there do not have jobs. That is not because of the influx of young, new talent. It is because the NBA is a league of not just talented basketball players, but instead the best basketball players around.
Aspiring pros need to know that the millions are not going to be handed to them. If you watch the NBA nowadays, you will hear the commentators talking about one player or the next, and occasionally you hear talk about players being signed to ten day contracts. These are men who make SortsCenter’s plays of the week, and they hove only ten-day contracts. This is a good indicator of how few spaces there really are in the NBA for new players. The reason that this disturbing trend is continuing is the one or two success stories that come from players entering the draft at a young age.
Sure, Kevin Garnett is making millions and earning it too, but pro scouts described him as “one in a million.” If I were in college or high school, I would not risk my future on one in a million odds. It is great to encourage kids and actually, it is necessary for their healthy development, but when the encouragement gets to their heads, that is when problems start to arise. Obviously, not everyone is a Kevin Garnett or an Allen Iverson, and kids could use to hear that once in a while to keep their heads on their shoulders and their feet on the ground. Some of the athletes that do opt to leave early have what it takes to make it in the NBA. There are really two options for making it in the NBA: 1-have what it takes and earn your right to a big contract…or 2-make yourself look so attractive to the pro scouts that you will be drafted high in the lottery picks. If your path to the NBA is number two, then you will most likely receive a large signing bonus that is guaranteed.
This means you can be drafted early, make millions instantaneously, and be a total flop in the NBA. Take Shawn Bradley for example. He was picked over many people that are truly successful by NBA standards. That is an astounding example of the perverse nature of the NBA draft. Bradley has made no impact in the NBA, and could probably retire and live the rest of his life luxuriously, just because a team took a gamble, and a bad one at that, on him in the draft. NBA commissioner David Stern says that it is inevitable for kids to try their lick at a shot at the pros.
He cited many other sports where the superstars are young, often teenagers. However, unlike baseball, which signs many, many more players out of high school and college that basketball, there are multitudes of minor leagues of baseball where players cam develop their game for the next level or realize that their dreams of playing pro are only that; dreams. Stern has asked the players union to implement age restrictions on draft choices, but so far, nothing has come of it. There are steps that can curb this trend, though they would be difficult. Firstly, everyone involved has to start taking some of the blame for this. There are not increasingly more kids entering the draft prematurely because of the smooth talk of some prop scouts.
There are more people that the pros to blame here. Colleges need to take some responsibility in their evaluations of their prospective players instead of waving their fingers at the press conferences of their underclassmen announcing their future plans. Most hotshot players know that they are going pro and say they are going pro at an early age, most before or while they are in college. If colleges are going to be upset about players leaving early, then they should not offer scholarships to kids that say they plan to leave early. Some universities are very good at this, like the Kansas Jayhawks, whose coach, Roy Williams, has had only one player in his tenure at Kansas leave early for the draft. On the other hand, you have another one of America’s best loved teams, University of North Carolina, which was coached by one of the all time greats, Dean Smith, continually have their squad decimated at the end of every year.
UNC has had many young stars leave early, most notably Michael Jordan, and it hurts the team and the university. Unfortunately, the underlying principle behind this whole situation is money. Successful programs bring in tons of money and gain tremendous amounts of exposure from having a star athlete on their teams. At the same time, athletes are not using the college game for what it was intended and instead as a time for them to display their skills and improve their stock in the NBA. Either way you look at it, athletes use college and get used by colleges simultaneously. The best piece of advice for future NBA stars and potential failures alike is to build your future and your lives around education, not basketball.
The level of competitiveness is almost cutthroat and it is easy to be trampled over and forgotten. A good quote comes from former Maryland star Len Elmore, who said, “if a guy has a need to help his family, he needs to pursue his education. This (leaving early) is just a total indulgence of a childhood fantasy.” Although it is probably the most common clich ever, it still rings true today and will continue to into the future…STAY IN SCHOOL! Bibliography: 1. Eisenberg, John. Early exodus to NBA is a pathetic pattern. 6/2/96.
World Wide Web. http://www.sunspot.net/couumnists/data/eisengerg/0602eisenberg.shtml 2. CNN/SI. 1998 NBA Draft Underclassmen. 6/18/98.
World Wide Web. Http://www.cnnsi.com/basketball/nb..ws/1998/06/18/early_entries_draft/ 3. Shah, Simit. Marbury’s decision exposes dilemma. 4/5/96.
World Wide Web. http://www.cyberbuzz.gatech.eud/ni…spring1996/apr5/editorials3-s.html 4. ESPN. Early entries to 1998 NBA draft.
1/8/98. World Wide Web. http://espn.go.com/nba/features/00647040.html 5. Scripps/McClatchy. Young players continue pathetic march toward NBA draft.
5/8/96. World Wide Web. http://www.nando.net/newsroom/spor…/feat/archive/050896/nba74107.html 6. CPS.