Superstar high school basketball player, Jalen Green has signed to play in the NBA G League next year. He is the first high school senior to use this particular route to the NBA as opposed to attending college or going overseas. Many are speculating that this will be the death nail in the coffin of NCAA basketball. That is not the case…but it will force the hand of the stagnant NCAA.
College sports, most notably basketball and football, have come under immense scrutiny in the last few years due to their amateurism rules that prohibit playing the players even though their labor generates billions in revenue. In the case of basketball, this problem was exacerbated by the 2005 NBA rule that prohibits otherwise capable high school talent from jumping straight to the league which ushered in the age of the so-called “one and done” in reference to players spending one year in college just to meet the draft eligibility requirements. Many people have, in turn, criticized the NBA for not allowing players to go directly to the league and forcing them to go to college. The rule that caused one and done will not end anytime soon, but the NBA has created an attractive option in the middle.
Extremely talented high school seniors can now jump directly to the G-League elite talent development program which will pay players around $500,000 which isn’t exactly NBA money but certainly more than you can make playing minor league basketball anywhere else in the US…and certainly more than the G-Leagues main competitor, NCAA basketball. The deal reportedly will still offer players the chance to take college classes if they desire. As they are not amateurs in this system, they can also seek endorsements commercials and shoe deals.
Looking at the numbers, it is easy to see why some of the old guard at the NCAA would be worried that this would be an existential threat to college basketball, but it’s not.
- Even when players could jump directly to the NBA, the number of players that usually choose to do that was in the single digits.
- The exposure and fandom around college remains a more attractive experience than playing exhibition games that stream online against teams nobody has heard of especially when you factor in the NCAA tournament.
- Many parents still want their sons to go to college.
- Regardless of whether or not it is against the rules, we have had reports of players outside of the top 15 high school players being offered secret deals in the mid $200,000s in college under the table…which is just about what $500,000 will be after taxes and agent fees.
- Even if every NBA caliber talent went to the G-League, college basketball isn’t necessarily built on the promise that every game has a future NBA player. Plenty of teams are devoid of pro talent and have a rabid following.
So, what will this G-League competition do? It’s going to push the NCAA to finally do right by its athletes.
$500,000 to 6 or 7 of the top prep players every year doesn’t force the NCAA out of business, but it certainly gets the ball moving on paying players. The NCAA has actually already started to move towards changing its image and likeness rules which would allow players to get endorsements, shoe deals or even just run a summer camp with their name on it. That change alone would quiet most of the critics of the system. It’s not truly paying players, but if Zion Williamson had a multimillion-dollar shoe deal while at Duke. people probably wouldn’t feel as bad about the lack of a formal salary.
Every system or organization needs competition to reach their best form. For a long time, the NCAA was the only viable show in town. But over the last couple of years, they have seen top high school prospects shun schools like Duke and Kansas to play in foreign countries and now even the G-League. And though the NCAA doesn’t need every top 5 player to come to college, they would certainly prefer to have them. The G-League development program is going to force the NCAA to adopt the changes to make it more attractive to superstar talents.