Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban dumped an ungodly amount of truthbombs over the weekend, railing against the NCAA’s hypocrisy and uselessness in regards to both developing basketball players, and the joke that is the “student-athlete” designation.
In speaking with ESPN Dallas’ Tim MacMahon, Cuban pointed out three things that we should all be aware of by now:
1). Pro leagues will always have an advantage over the NCAA in developing young talent.
2). The idea that top college truly care about the whole “student” part of the “student-athlete” tag for potential pro athletes is an absolute farce.
3). The NCAA is a house of cards, but one that makes too much money for too many millions of people to attempt to topple. It’s a house of cards that is being guarded by a defense budget that would rival that of the U.S. Military.
The quotes from MacMahon’s talk are plentiful and spot on, and we start with this one:
"The NCAA rules are so hypocritical, there's absolutely no reason for a kid to go [to college], because he's not going to class [and] he's actually not even able to take advantage of all the fun because the first semester he starts playing basketball. So if the goal is just to graduate to the NBA or be an NBA player, go to the D-League."
This is in partial response to news about new NBA commissioner Adam Silver considering an increase in the NBA’s age limit. An increase is the absolute best thing for nearly all involved: NBA veterans would get another year in the league before losing their roster spot to a rookie, NBA teams would get another year of free labor development from the college ranks, and the NCAA, television stations, and apparel and shoe companies would take in continued billions of dollars from athletes working for free.
The one rank that it doesn’t help is the actual player, who would be forced into playing professionally overseas, coming back for a second season of free labor with the NCAA under the guise of a “student-athlete,” or joining the D-League. All while being denied NBA employment by teams that genuinely do want to pay for their services at age 18 or 19, be that for a short or long term investment.
It’s all very American!
The age limit to play in the D-League is 18, but no top end NCAA prospect has chosen to forego one year of college to play in the NBA’s minor league. Only Brandon Jennings, who won four major player of the year awards in his senior year of high school, decided to skip NCAA ball and go overseas for a year. Jennings’ NBA game has stagnated in five seasons at this level, but you can hardly blame that at not being able to work for 30-some games with Tim Floyd for a year at USC.
Cuban went on to suggest that the NBA, were it serious about throwing the NCAA a massive bone by way of giving them another year with potential superstars working for free, should throw some cash the D-League’s way in order to properly outfit them as a potential nurturing unit for 18-year olds. Offering potential future tuition guarantees and life coaching.
This would, in part, help point to the emperor’s exposed dangle as it marched toward March Madness. From ESPN Dallas:
"We can get rid of all the hypocrisy and improve the education," Cuban said. "If the whole plan is just to go to college for one year maybe or just the first semester, that's not a student-athlete. That's ridiculous.
"You don't have to pretend. We don't have to pretend. A major college has to pretend that they're treating them like a student-athlete, and it's a big lie and we all know it's a big lie. At least at most schools, not all. ... But we can put more of an emphasis on their education. We can plan it out, have tutors. We can do all kinds of things that the NCAA doesn't allow schools to do that would really put the individual first."
Beyond the NCAA’s “student-athlete” hypocrisy, this speaks to the point we should all be focusing on. An 18 or 19-year old prospect’s best basketball interests are not being served wasting a year or two on an NCAA team. The shortage of games, the limited practice time, and the relatively lacking facilities and structure are not superior to the NBA’s infrastructure, and that includes a potentially improved D-League. Playing 30 games and practicing every so often is nowhere as important as practicing with NBA pros and working for potentially 80-some games a year – even as a limited minutes scrub.
And before you smirk at the D-League’s lacking depth of talent, relative to the NBA, or the fact that the league is dotted with coaches you barely remember as NBA players, understand that this is still a better setting for a developing pro. To play against actual professional men, and not college students. To work in over twice as many games. To practice far more hours. To learn how to travel as a professional, while working out of towns that are similar in size to your typical Big College Campus.
Cuban agrees. From MacMahon’s piece:
One conclusion that Cuban has reached: Playing in the NCAA is not the ideal way to prepare for an NBA career. He hopes the D-League emerges as a clearly superior option.
"Then you wouldn't be under the stupidity of the NCAA," Cuban said. "There's no reason for the NCAA to exist. None."
There is a reason for the NCAA to exist, but it shouldn’t be for preparing young players with NBA potential for an NBA shot. It should exist to promote the careers of actual student-athletes, those without a professional sports future as a player, especially in activities that don’t serve as unpaid minor leagues for North America’s top four professional sports leagues.
Of course, even with the NBA’s resources and smart and creative minds like Silver and Cuban floating around, none of this is likely to change soon. There’s too much money to be made for the NCAA, its television partners, and those shoe, apparel, and video game companies. And the NBA isn’t bothered enough to turn itself away from free development on the NCAA level.
Even if the development, comparative to what could be at the NBA, D-League, or international level, isn’t all that great.
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