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Is the NBA – NCAA market division in jeopardy?

2008 June 23
by Skip Sauer

Basketball is the one uniquely American game. (Our baseball and football were adaptations of English games). It would be ironic if increasing appreciation of basketball in Europe chips away at the cartelized, market division arrangement that works so well for the NBA and NCAA. The things is, Europe pays more than the NCAA, and they don’t have any problem with luring teenagers to emigrate for the purpose of sport. William Rhoden reports:

Brandon Jennings smiled Sunday afternoon when someone suggested that he might be considered a trendsetter.

If he makes good on a threat to go from high school to professional basketball in Europe, Jennings will become the first high school player to spurn college to go overseas and play professionally.

Trendsetting.

This is the latest — and most brilliant — plan yet to combat the three-tiered maneuver by the N.C.A.A., the N.B.A. and the players union to prevent talented high school players from going directly to the N.B.A.

The N.B.A. instituted an age limit of 19, and required that a player be at least a year removed from high school, as part of its collective bargaining agreement with the union. The N.C.A.A. didn’t protest, and why would it?

Under this arrangement, the great high school players have little choice but to do time in college for a season at a high-profile college. Kevin Love wound up at U.C.L.A., Michael Beasley at Kansas State, Derrick Rose at Memphis and O. J. Mayo at Southern California. All entered this week’s N.B.A. draft after one season in college.

Jennings, an 18-year-old from Los Angeles who played the last two seasons at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, signed a letter of intent to play at Arizona.

Jennings was pushed into action by the N.C.A.A. After doing poorly on his first standardized test, he did well on the second, but because of the difference in the scores, the testing service asked him to take the test a third time. He relented, but at that point Jennings decided that he was through with the N.C.A.A. Why jump through hoops to go to Arizona, endure the charade of an academic regimen, then switch into N.B.A. mode the instant the season is over?

A little European experience might be more beneficial than sitting in Astronomy 101 for these cats, no?

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