An extremely interesting phenomenon I witnessed over the last few weeks was the coordinated push by rich white old men to force predominantly poor young black men to work for them for well below their market value, so that the rich white men can improve the value of their product and hopefully capture more profit for themselves. While this sounds a lot like cotton plantations in the 1880s, I am talking about the seemingly coordinated efforts by the NBA and NCAA officials, making a push to raise the age limit for NBA entrance.
Now it’s obvious why all three parties who have decision-making/advocating authority in setting the age limit for entering the draft want players to stay in school for two or three years. The NCAA will get better players, which means a better product. They will also get the advantage of being able to market players over multiple years- take for example this year’s Kentucky team, which already has several of the most famous players in the NCAA as freshmen. The NBA will get additional ability to scout players and, perhaps more importantly, will get to save money as players’ year 19-21 seasons won’t have to be paid for. Even the NBA players union has a short-term interest in this rule: if Anthony Davis is forced to stay in school one more year, someone will take his roster spot. That will most likely be a current NBA player.
So this all makes sense from an economic perspective, sure. But the argument of “we want more money for ourselves, and we wish to take this from 19-20 year old predominantly poor, black man-children,” does not sound very politically correct, nor would it likely prove popular. Therefore, the NBA and NCAA have to trot out demonstrably false arguments to confuse the masses and win opinion to their side.
Argument one is that players who come into the league straight from high school are lacking in ability or maturity to adjust to playing in the NBA. This is like arguing the world is flat- you have to be willfully ignorant of hard data in order to make your argument. (Yea I’m talking to you Mark Cuban, who recently argued players needed to stay in school for three years and somehow managed to ignore the fact that his championship NBA team contained THREE rotation players that never played in college, DeShawn Stevenson, Tyson Chandler and of course, Dirk Nowitski.) Just in case you need any more evidence, look at the 2008 All NBA Teams, where four out of the 5 first teamers came straight from high school and over half the players did not go to college. And its not just superstars (you know, Kobe, LeBron, KG)- straight to NBA players follow a normal curve of outcomes, from All-Stars (Josh Smith, Monta Ellis, Andrew Bynum) to starters (Al Jefferson, Kendrick Perkins, Lou Williams) to role players (Kwame Brown, Dorrell Wright) to fringe players and washouts (Gerald Green, Robert Swift.) Clearly, players who don’t play in college are able to play in the NBA.
Argument two is that the league is somehow “doing the players wrong” by forcing them to accept the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars they are compensated for playing in the NBA. The argument goes that many of these players “wash out,” of the league quickly and are then left with nothing but that darn high school diploma, totally unprepared for the rest of life that awaits them.
This is at the least, a paternalistic argument and I would argue a racist one. The implied notion is that young black people with money are incapable of looking after themselves. Even if this is the case, the solution of the NBA and NCAA is not to set up support networks, or mandate financial planning, or ease regulations on NCAA eligibility, but to deny the players money in the first place.
And that’s why you know they’re being disingenuous. Because for most 19 years olds, the ability to earn the NBA minimum (over 450 thousand dollars) even for one year, will be more than a decade’s worth of income with a college degree. With that income, they also have the opportunity to attend college in the future of course, should they decide it’s in their best interests.
So please, NBA and NCAA officials, stop talking to us like we’re stupid. If you want to make more money by fucking over poor black teenagers, go for it. Just don’t pretend you’re being the good guys.