The college basketball landscape is changing. The NCAA is on a downward spiral. These are things I have heard. The truth is, perhaps it is. But I’m not buying it.
The NCAA announced on Wednesday that it will be moving forward with a plan to allow college athletes to profit from third-party endorsements and other activities that use their name, image and likeness.
So, yes. I suppose the game is changing—a little. But that decision has been a long time coming and it’s the right thing to do.
The topic of discussion I’m speaking on is players forgoing college to play professionally.
Jalen Green, one of the nation’s top high school recruits, made news when he announced that he is going to bypass the NCAA and sign with the G League, a development league for the NBA. Green reportedly signed a contract around $500,000. He will also have his tuition paid for by the NBA, should he decide to go back to school and earn his degree.
The right decision? It’s a safe one. The NBA G League set records for players on end-of-regular-season NBA rosters with NBA G League experience (272)–a total of 52 percent of all NBA players during the 2018-19 season.
It’s monumental, but Green isn’t the first player to take this route. Neither is top recruit Isaiah Todd or five-star prospect Daishen Nix. Before them, R.J. Hampton signed a multi-year deal with the New Zealand Breakers of the National Basketball League (NBL), in Australia, with the option to leave for the NBA and LaMelo Ball who last played for the Illawarra Hawks of the NBL has entered his name into the 2020 NBA Draft.
But that’s only a handful of players. Sure, more will follow, but here’s the thing; from 1995 to 2005, 39 players went straight from high school to the NBA. Players like Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Dwight Howard and LeBron James.
College basketball continued to thrive with players like Allen Iverson, Carmelo Anthony, Juan Dixon, J.J. Redick, Chris Paul, among others. The ratings for the Final Four were higher during that stretch than they were in the next decade.
For every player that goes pro, there will be a Ja Morant, a Zion Williamson, or a Obadiah Toppin. The NCAA will continue to get top talent, even if guys decide to skip school.
Programs like this give athletes options to play professionally. The NBA G league deserves credit for that.
But the NCAA will not hurt from this. They will only continue to thrive.