4.08.2008

Strength for Everyone!



Hooray for college basketball. That's all.

Read this TSB post I did on the proposed bigger, better age limit (which wouldn't go into effect until the next CBA, in four years, so calm down and ignore this). Strangely, while I was opposed to one-and-done, this seems good for everyone involved. It's not a concession, or a band-aid on a major cultural shift—it would do a lot to build bridges between college and the pro ranks.

Look, college sophomores can still be perfectly raw and ridiculous, but with just enough seasoning to not waste our time. No one has yet suggested that languishing or wandering through the pros at a young age is better for player development than college. College isn't better, but neither is the pros. And while they do their time in the de facto minors, they will be stars. I watched Durant; didn't watch much Beasley, since I figured I'd catch him in one year.

That doesn't mean I automatically take college stardom easily, but when it's attached to guys you know should be pro, it's a plus for NBA fans. Never mind saving the NBA, or rescuing it from its own wasteful nature. Put bluntly, this age limit would do much to salvage college basketball. Real stars—not the kind that are a function of context, or smoke and mirrors—are what makes sports worth watching if you didn't pay tuition or property tax to the name in front of the funny animal. They keep you caring throughout an entire season, and I suspect that those "only the playoffs matter" fools are immune to their gravitas.



Oh and also, that atmosphere last night scared me. It's not that I don't care about winning and losing, but there's so much more going on in sports. Seriously. And yeah, it's the championship game, the definition of win/lose, but that kind of bloodlust bores the hell out of me. That probably explains why I've gravitated toward the NBA where, ostensibly, you get to spend a lot of time ignoring/expanding that EVERYONE SCREAMS, SHOWS THEIR TEETH, AND SQUINTS AT THE SCOREBOARD FOR FORTY MINUTES experience.

Which brings me to a point I meant to make three paragraphs ago. While the basketball fan in me likes the two-year age limit, it's even more fucked up from a law, justice and the American way perspective. I don't know what an analogous situation would be: If I hated some racist mascot but loved what he did for team spirit, maybe? Regardless, it makes me realize: Sports are essentially a corporate environment of control and management. Those are fundamentally at odds with freedom, not matter what we may say about style. Something like the Suns, they're just a goofy tech company.

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26 Comments:

At 4/08/2008 2:10 PM, Blogger PostmanE said...

Oh and also, that atmosphere last night scared me. It's not that I don't care about winning and losing, but there's so much more going on in sports. Seriously. And yeah, it's the championship game, the definition of win/lose, but that kind of bloodlust bores the hell out of me.

Agreed in every instance except for games like last night's. At some point in the tournament, it stops being weird and starts being fun. Maybe it was because last night's talent level was high enough to justify the glaring.

 
At 4/08/2008 2:17 PM, Blogger Leonardson Saratoga said...

I think you make a great point. We argue that college ruins players, but haven't the same amount (no empirical evidence, but just off the top of ones head) been ruined by tyrannical college coaches as have been ruined by pro teams who insist on keeping them on the bench or in Lig/NBDL limbo constantly?

Also, I wonder about your "real stars, not those of context or smoke and mirrors" comment, only because I wonder about your (or the FD community as a whole's) views on Stephen Curry. Is he a star of context? i would probably say yes, because I would say the term "real star" is reserved for the Rose's, Durant's, LeBron's, et al of the world (NOT BEASLEY, but thats a story for another time).

Finally, say what you will about college coaches, and I certainly will, but this makes me happy.

“I don’t want (our players) in the film room more than 15 or 20 minutes,” he says. “That’s a long time. I don’t want them in there; that’s my job as a coach to watch tape. I want them to play.” -John Calipari

“I’m a huge fan of the dunk,” Self says. “I know a lot of purists aren’t. But it’s a momentum play. It’s a play that gives your team confidence, it’s a play that gets your crowd in the game more. All those things have an effect.” -Bill Self

 
At 4/08/2008 3:34 PM, Blogger Martin said...

"…it's even more fucked up from a law, justice and the American way perspective."

That is exactly what it is- such sentiments sadly reveal that the proclivities driving the basketball (or any sports) fan within all of us are no different from those that drove the blood-thirsty, gore-happy crowds at the Roman Coliseum who took pleasure in the watching gladiatorial contests and loved changes that made it more 'fun' or 'competitive' such as introducing exotic wild animals like tigers to maul a losers brains out. Of course such sentiments pay little regard for the humanity deployed to entertain but that is not our concern as fans.

Granted the extent of depravity prevalent in the NCAA’s is not is no where near what was found on slave plantations or at the Roman Coliseum; however the fundamental exploitative nature remains the same. And superstar players that toil under this NCAA yoke suffer the greatest a situation that to the eyes of many is mitigated by the huge payday they receive once they turn pro. Even Tiger Woods would have probably wanted to finish out his college degree were it not for his disdain of the NCAAs tyrannies.

"...March 1995- Earl tells Sports Illustrated that Tiger won't turn pro and will finish his four years at Stanford. Tiger concurs: "I would rather spend four years here at Stanford and improve myself..."

"...April 1995- Stanford suspends Tiger from the golf team for a day for writing Masters diaries for Golf World and Golfweek magazines. "It's deemed to be a promotion of a commercial publication," says Steve Mallonee, director of legislative services for the NCAA. Meanwhile, Tiger privately seethes about the inquiries. His father intimates that Tiger might leave school early if such annoying NCAA scrutiny continues or if, says Earl, "he achieves a level of performance in which collegiate golf is no longer a viable environment for him...."

Tiger's frustrations are no different from those likely to be faced by any Lebronesque trapped under the NCAA’s thumb. Locking such players up for two-years is nothing short of cruel and unusual. There are those that argue the system’s merits of imposing a benevolent paternalistic enforce to guide the misguided teen superstar athlete in adulthood. I wonder how many of these same people would look at the situation in the same light if were to DIRECTLY influence their lives. Like say if the Fed decided in light of the subprime fiasco and negative consumer savings rates- that perhaps the best solution is to instill a body that manages everybody’s money and education/career choices up to the age of 22. I can see huge economic benefits to be gained from such a system- the feds could manage all your money and force you to save- yes you may have to put in a lengthy written request to buy an iPhone with your hard-earned salary but at least once it is rejected the $499 plus change will go into a fixed savings account yielding 4.75%. I am sure such a system could dramatically improve the US savings rates and put the country in a position for long-term economic growth.

 
At 4/08/2008 3:46 PM, Blogger Kyle said...

I don't think that increasing the age requirement necessarily leads to a better college product. I fear that some of the HS superstars who want the quick money will skip college and play internationally instead. If a player has NBA potential, two years is a long time for him to wait before collecting any checks. Granted, I have no evidence that US high school phenoms are fleeing to Europe, but does anyone else think that this may be possible with an increased age requirement?

 
At 4/08/2008 3:52 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Kyle, I don't think that's realistic. People were worried about that when they declared the current age limit.

Also, college can really help some players' earning potential.

 
At 4/08/2008 4:29 PM, Blogger MC Welk said...

Pretty FD for Self to run out of timeouts there at the end.

 
At 4/08/2008 5:42 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

NEW SPORTING NEWS COLUMN

 
At 4/08/2008 6:50 PM, Blogger Ryne Nelson said...

I'm a proponent of the 2-year minimum. But there's that part of me that realizes the Player's Association has absolutely no intensions of going along with this.

The NBA might have a selling point in that players like Derrick Rose, who gained an estimated $10M by going to college for one season, might score greater endorsements and higher draft picks. A couple years at school will make companies with money much more willing to pay if they know what the players are capable of doing.

 
At 4/08/2008 7:02 PM, Blogger Martin said...

sorry Shoals but the link you posted on Rose is at best selective data sampling (-hmm which freshman that is sure to declare benefited most from being forced to go to college) and at worst shameless propaganda (-hey sure we took away Rose freedom of choice, but it ended up for the best! see free choice is overrated. Sure we took away some of the risk involved in being a GM while keeping the reward i.e. compensation the same- but at least we prevented the less astute or unlucky GM from drafting Eric Gordon over Rose).

Don't get me wrong I am not some moral purist- I too love the one year rule and would love it to be extended to two-years- for selfish reasons. But I cant justify it as anything other than: Robbing the players of their free-will (given the freedom of choice very few players stay regardless of how much a Durant or Oden loved college); Exploiting their labor by paying well below cost and insuring them for the risk (hey do you think Rose will sign a $30,000 a year contract with the Heat, that should be fair given its what he was compensated by Memphis this year); And it is only made possible by the fact that the NBA/NFL are monopolies, overseas is not yet a close substitute, but imagine for a minute that there was another league just a popular as the NBA lets call it the ABA for fun- do you really think the NBA would be perched on their high-horse touting the values of FORCING players to go college at the risk of driving the next Lebron to the NBA's rival league along with all his lucrative advertising dollars.

 
At 4/08/2008 7:13 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Martin--

My last paragraph was all about how an age limit is indefensible when judged by the non-sports world's standards. Because yes, it is a denial of rights.

But within the context of this business, it can be good for someone like Rose. And probably benefits anyone who was expected to dominate in college and then does. It only really hurts people who need money right away, like in the case of Larry Hughes, or players who could've gone lottery but turned out to not deserve it (a lot of HS players).

 
At 4/08/2008 7:27 PM, Blogger Tom said...

I really don't understand the reluctance to embrace Beasley. As a Kansas alumn, I had the chance to watch both him and Durant up close on the Junior Circuit- it ain't even close. Beasley is the next great American power forward. KU was able to shut down Durant for extended periods on two occasions with Brandon Rush- a guy that should have a nice NBA career, but certainly not a superstar. But they never had a chance at stopping Beasley. Never before has someone been able to pull out a 39 and 17 with so little effort.

I can't believe people are buying into Simmons' theory that because he plays a similar style to Derrick Coleman, he's destined for the same career. That's just so wrong on so many levels.

Beasley will be starting for the US in the 2012 Olympics--and will likely be the reason the Mayans were right.

 
At 4/08/2008 7:44 PM, Blogger Babydaddy said...

@Kyle--I was actually thinking the same thing about Europe as an option. I haven't got the slightest idea what an 18-year old American could make overseas, but with the growth in numbers, and ability, of foreign players in the Assoc., it would seem that there is quality game to be found in other parts of the world. And, presumably, an increased interest in the game.

Whatever, I'm still wrapping my head around the fact that most of the top 10 MVP candidates this year either bailed on college entirely or at least missed the big time NCAA college experience. Wake Forest hasn't been in the Final Fo since '62, yet they apparently have genius recruiters. Duke has produced some serious NBA ballers of late, but remember that Redick was a massive college star.

I'm not sure where I was going with this. College is bad?

 
At 4/08/2008 7:45 PM, Blogger guntalk said...

shoals:

i don't think you're considering all the economics here.

for players who can come out and make a pro team, they're missing one or two earning years. while it could be argued that building a name in college could get them better endorsement deals, that seems speculative and applicable to the minority of players entering the draft. the critical element of missing those two years is that it puts free agency an extra two years back. this has all sort of ramifications. instead of being a restricted free agent after this year, someone like monta ellis would still be on a rookie contract for two more seasons (i know he's a second round pick and wouldn't have been one if he had played at memphis, but bear with me). even if he had lottery money, it wouldn't come close to approaching what he's going to see this contact. and with structured max deals, it means every tier would be pushed back for guys like kg, kobe, mcgrady, lebron, etc.

in a super basic salary structure for a top player with a rookie contract, an extension and then a max deal, we might see:

5m x 4 a year
5m x 11 a year
5m x 15 a year

pushing everything back 2 years could cost a top player 30 million.

would larry hughes have gotten that big contract from cleveland if he was a free agent this offseason and didn't have the same benefit of youth and potential at the time of signing two years back? probably not.

this is the other reason that owners love this shit. besides making drafting an easier science, it takes a lot of the uncertainty out of free agency contracts for guys like josh smith, and insure that franchise players like dwight howard make significantly less over the course of their career.

 
At 4/08/2008 7:50 PM, Blogger guntalk said...

i transposed some of those numbers. it should read:

5m x 4 years
11m x 5 years
15m x 7 years

the point is that when a player's free-agency periods are pushed back, they would typically lose two of their most profitable seasons.

 
At 4/08/2008 7:59 PM, Blogger Babydaddy said...

Guntalk--good point. Deep. It also made me think that at the lower end of the talent spectrum, the decision isn't college vs. NBA, it's college vs. not being able to afford college. Every star who is forced to go through the NCAA charade is taking up a scholarship that is considerably more valuable to someone who doesn't have as bright an athletic future.

 
At 4/08/2008 8:47 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

Things I take back:

-Saying "Martin, I already said that." Didn't notice that he quoted that sentence of mine in his first comment. Apologies.

-Kind of stupid of me to say "this is wrong and fucked up" and then split hairs on the business end. Because all there really is to look at is either the pure quality of player/sport issue, or his business existence.

The player always loses here if you reduce it to dollars and cents. It helps brand-wise, but what the fuck does that even mean?

 
At 4/08/2008 9:14 PM, Blogger Tom said...

How College Players are Paid:

- Money: Both above the table and below it.
- On Court Training: Likely the only time a player can receive individual guidance on improving weaknessees in their games.
- Off Court Training: Players have an opportunity to develop social consciousness, become a better public speaker, learn to manage their personal assets, develop skills that can be useful for their post-NBA careers, etc.
- Brand Development: Pretty well covered here. Personally, I think Durant would have been more hated than beloved by the majority of Americans if he hadn't spent a year at UT. Is that right? Of course not. But it's probably true.
Also, a non-superstar player will make a lot more money in the long run by going to school, realizing his flaws as a player, taking a year or two (or even more than that) to work on them, and transform themselves into a viable long-term NBA player.
- Hero Worship: players get to learn to deal with national scrutiny in a more forgiving environment. No one really cares if you puked at a party, cause hey, everyone else in the room has been there too. This also ties into brand development, for learning from these types of mistakes can make them more marketable in the long run.
- Ulterior motive-free Sex
- Free Drugs
- Free Alcohol

Does that add up to 5+ million dollars? Possibly over the course of their lifetime. Most likely not, however. But I'm not willing to say one year of a situation like that is slavery yet. I don't agree with expanding the age limit any further, but I think we should let the current setup run for a couple more years before any legitimate conclusions can be made.

As per the Europe issue, I don't think teams have any interest in getting a player for only two years, investing in their development, and watching them bolt back to the US as soon as they can. Also, most Euro teams can't afford to pay what college teams do under the table. The Team Adidas idea is a lot more plausible, in my opinion.

 
At 4/08/2008 10:20 PM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

@ Tom:

Money - whatever that amount under the table is (cars, stipends, clothing, etc) is not enough. If it was even close to being enough, you would see more NBA-ready players actually staying in school for another season. Not to mention Guntalk's correct cost-benefit analysis, which lays out the potential $10+ million a player loses.

On the court training: No way you get better training in college than in the NBA, with the best coaches. Durant's year in school is a prime example, though his year in Seattle does seem to negate my argument (I would then argue that PJ is really a college coach). Still, I think NBA coaching is the best there is. See John Calipari or Tim Floyd's record at the two levels, et al.

Off court training: Valid point on your part. To the NBA's credit, they take this seriously, and have various programs for rookies to deal with everything from speaking to the media to dealing with money. I would suggest that 19 years are 19 year olds, and that the only reason Tim Duncan types are better prepared is that they are 22 year olds. And after one or two awkward years - remember Timmy's rookie year - they are a genuine 24 year old, which is a completely different animal than a 19 year old. All of which is to say that the argument that kids that stay in college are more prepared for off court stuff is patently impossible to prove, since you are comparing different age groups.

Brand Development: Ask OJ Mayo how that whole going to college for a year worked out - he should have been the top point guard in this age group's draft, not Derrick Rose. That $10 million dollars Rose gained came from somewhere, right? It came right out of Mayo's pocket. Not that many people feel bad for OJ....

Hero Worship: People care when star college athletes puke at a party. If not, I wouldn't be able to see pictures of Greg Oden dancing with a chick in a tiny skirt at a college party on Deadspin, would I? Agree on the ulterior motive ass, though. Good point.

So yeah, it's not slavery. But it is more like being forced to enlist in the army or something. In this case, they have to serve the NCAA for two years, at below market wages, as a condition of their future employment, which is not even guaranteed. At some point many years from now this will get overruled by a court.

 
At 4/09/2008 12:31 AM, Blogger MC Welk said...

I hate it when sometimes I read the comments and then I forget what your post was about, but not really. The age limit post was naive because it will never EVER happen. I mean NEVER. Kobe saying combat was more dangerous was pretty much the death knell.

That said I LOVED your latest on "we just want to know who's any good." This is entertainment, after all, and Chris Paul just auditioned for a donkey show.

 
At 4/09/2008 12:52 AM, Blogger rebar said...

it makes me a little sick to hear sinister capitalist mantras like "rights" get bandied about when talking about basketball, but maybe i'm a little too FD for my own good. seriously though, i dislike the binding effect it has on players, but not because it takes away earning power from them or harms their ability to subject themselves to the all powerful economic superstructure. more because it fucks with their game. someone mentioned a while back vince carter could have been josh smith v -1.0 if he hadn't been UNC'd, and the mere idea of that is enough to make me wonder. at the same time, i guess i don't mind development (god shammgod could've stayed in the lig if he had just stayed at providence), so i'm neutral on that front.

europe will never become the alt. for reasons listed above by others, but also:

1. contracts in europe fuck a player over, it's hard to transition to the NBA if you're in europe (see any of the euro players, rookies as 26,27,28 year olds?). no blue chipper is going to want to waste 5-6 years wallowing in turkey. much better to get it over with in college.

2. the normative draw of college in the US is HUGE. not only is it seen as a mark of legitimacy sports-wise (ESPN does a good job of that), but it also has a powerful status-symbol effect.

in further news: candace v candace was a great final game, i wish they would actually get paid at the next level.

i hate how as soon as april hits, it goes from college basketball to MLB. fuck baseball, i want the end of the season + playoffs in the NBA.

wv jdmxbm: john denver might have sexed brad miller

 
At 4/09/2008 12:59 AM, Blogger Martin said...

My biggest qualm with the NCAA system and the one or soon to be two year rule, is not based on the economics or business side of the issue but rather on the issue of justice and free will. I strongly defend everyones right to free choice- the freedom to either fuck up their lives or the freedom to make great decisions. I would feel much better about Rose's windfall if he had actually CHOSEN to go through the college system. Whether or not the one-year NBA rule is beneficial or detrimental can only be best determined on a case by case basis- for Rose good, for OJ- bad. I would therefore prefer a system in which both players were given the choice to make that decisions since eventually they alone will face the repercussions.

Likewise GM's and owners should be free to draft who they like- if they end up with a kwame brown instead of a dwight howard, at least they had the freedom to draft foolishly. MJ is a gambler, I am sure he understood that the draft lottery had an element of uncertainty to it.

 
At 4/09/2008 1:15 PM, Blogger Tom said...

@SML:

All good points. My main reason for posting was to point out the various types of "value" that come out of playing college ball beyond basic dollars and cents.

The only point I will quibble with is your assertion on superior training in the NBA. While I have no doubt that the coaches and training staff have superior knowledge of the game at that level, I'm not sure they are always the best at conveying that knowledge to a 19 year old kid. My impression of development in the league is that it's available, but you have to go out and get it yourself- something that not every hot shot high school kid is willing to do. I know that several players on the Bulls have had to hire private trainers to help them with their games because their coaching situation is such a mess right now. While that may be an aberration, a player like Ty Thomas' career literally hangs in the balance. If he had jumped straight from high school, he would've been drafted lower, and had even less of a commitment from his team in terms of development. It is best for the Bulls, the NBA, and even the denizens of this blog to ensure that that kind of potential has a legitimate shot at being reached.

To me, the current system seems to ensure that as few players "fall through the cracks" as possible, which I think is best for everyone. The loss of potential earnings is a legitimate concern, but that can be addressed through some tweaks to the CBA.

Again, I'm not ready to completely endorse the 1 year requirement, and I really don't think a 2 year requirement is necessary or beneficial. I think we need to let the current setup run for a couple more years, and make adjustments from there.

Your compulsory service analogy is apt, but can't you say that is true for almost any career, especially a high paying one?

wv: yaoaiyo- sometimes these write themselves

 
At 4/09/2008 2:05 PM, Blogger stopmikelupica said...

Interesting point about other careers. In accounting, you generally need two years of public accounting service at an audit firm to become a CPA. In medicine, you have to do your internship/residency. To be a practicing lawyer, passing the bar is not sufficient; you have to have some work experience, right? Even government workers - police officers, firemen, etc - all have probation periods before becoming "full" employees.

The difference? Money - every single person in those examples is getting paid, officially, at a comparably fair market value, for their services during the "training" period. Future NBA players may be making money under the table as College Stars, but it's probably not close to fair value, agreed?

You can argue about free will, but I don't think you can say that applies in other industries, either. You can't become a doctor or a surgeon without serving your time, right? Ditto the NBA. If the NBA wants to deem the NCAA as the "final exam" you must pass to make the NBA, then that's fine. But these kids should get paid, if it is a requirement of future employment in the NBA.

 
At 4/09/2008 4:53 PM, Blogger Wild Yams said...

Shoals, in response to your Sporting News piece you linked to in these comments you say: "In fact, of all the teams in the West, the Jazz have the fewest questions." Doesn't the fact that the Jazz are atrocious on the road and the possibility that they're going to have to play all three playoff series (two of them at least) on the road to get to the Finals seem like a huge red flag to you? Utah is 5 games under .500 on the road; meanwhile the Hornets are 13 games over .500 on the road, the Lakers are 12 games over .500 on the road, Phoenix & Houston are 9 games over .500 on the road and San Antonio is 3 games over .500 on the road. Utah better be praying the Rockets stay in that 5th seed, cause if Utah has to start off against Phoenix, I think they're gonna get bounced in the first round (especially if the Suns get HCA).

 
At 4/09/2008 5:28 PM, Blogger Carter Blanchard said...

Y'all a bunch a libertarians. Free will has nothing to do with it. If an employer and its bargaining unit decides to restrict employment to a certain group of people, they have every right to do that. It's not like the people outside that group don't continue to have several options to choose from: NCAA, international, NBDL?, no basketball, etc. No one's forcing these kids to go to school, but the fact that they mostly choose school over the other options shows that the scholarship, school experience, hero status, etc, makes the NCAA the most attractive option.

The only issue here is that the bargaining unit doesn't agree to the restriction, but if they did, I don't see what the issue would be.

 
At 4/09/2008 5:43 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

WY--Yeah, it is a little weird that I said they're great at home, but didn't talk about their road problems. Changing it now.

 

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