The Judgement Day Cometh
Another question for you, which is a more forward-looking and savvy business, the NCAA or the NBA? The NBA has been at the forefront of a lot of innovations seen in major sports leagues across the globe. They are willing to try new things, and it appears as if they can implement changes at a faster pace than the NCAA, heavy sarcasm intended.
While the NCAA is still debating one-time free transfers and NIL rights, the NBA picked off two top prospects and built a new team for them. This is complete with a new model to compete in the G-League on an exhibition basis while being mentored by professional coaches and athletes. Most importantly, they are getting paid without having to leave the USA and reportedly can make up to a million after incentives.
It would be interesting to know how far back all these discussions between the league and players went since it has been rumored that both Green and Isiah Todd were exploring professional options for quite some time.
There was a reason Coach K never extended offers to such tantalizing prospects despite some mention of Duke from the Green camp about a year ago and the presence of Todd playing high school ball in his backyard. There is also some thought that this new route may signify an unwillingness to tackle the one-and-done model for some sides among the NBA’s contract negotiators.
Whatever the case, why would the NBA stop with one developmental franchise? They are setting up shop in Los Angeles, which has a wealth of talent and dearth of currently successful college programs. USC is seen as a chronic underachiever, and UCLA is a shade of its former glory despite the new coaching staff.
Top prospects nowadays can come into college with massive Twitter and Instagram followings, and a super-team made up of the 12-15 best prospects from California or the West Coast could rival either university’s popularity if you weren’t a specific fan of either of them.
A lot of the success of the new team will come with ease of access and viewing opportunities. The NBA certainly has the clout to get games on ESPN and maybe even in direct competition with a Big Monday or other traditional college hoops showcase over time. The NBA has also subsidized the WNBA for years at a loss, so it only comes to reason that they wouldn’t invest the time and money into this new venture only to see it fail or provide additional resources to bolster its success.
The prevalence of top high school games across various viewing platforms and the significant increase in ratings for these contests over the last few years show that a super-team of 10 or so of the best prospects would definitely be watched by a significant portion of basketball fans. Sierra Canyon was a popular story and packed gyms across the country whenever they played and only had two top prospects, although the Lebron James-in-the-gym factor played a huge part as well.
Josh Christopher, who has over 55K Twitter followers, made his announcement a spectacle that had thousands of people around the country tuned in and spawned countless stories and reactions for days after. Accounting for ticket sales, merchandise, and televised games, the loss of Christopher to Arizona State and Todd to the new G-League team could cost Michigan hundreds of thousands of dollars. It seems Duke basketball alum and current ASU head coach Bobby Hurley has it in for Fab freshmen associated with the Wolverine program.
Stars matter, even in college, and no one is better than marketing their stars as a concerted league strategy than the NBA. Now imagine another team in Atlanta, Miami, Dallas, Chicago, New York. All major cities with large talent pools in the surrounding areas and states with the same lack of highly successful college programs just like Los Angeles.
What if they put one in Charlotte to compete with North Carolina or Duke basketball? I would say bring it on in that instance, but the NBA is surely looking toward greener pastures and a surprising wealth of huge markets with little college competition and high interest in high school athletics.
Six teams with 60-72 players, all of them the stars of their high school squads and well-known in their areas with dreams of making it in the NBA. Who’s left on a Duke basketball roster at that point? Not to say we wouldn’t love them and their efforts just the same or that they wouldn’t wow us with some of the things they could do, but to never see a Zion Williamson, Marvin Bagley, or Jones brother or the likes of the six-man freshman class that are coming into play for Duke basketball next year ever again?
Now I sound like the hot-take guy, but that’s a worst-case scenario that I don’t think is likely either; but if there are more teams, which would appear to be the natural progression, there are less top recruits to go around, and that’s just a fact. Duke basketball would still likely see the best of the best available but in a watered-down class.
COLLEGE BASKETBALL WILL NOT BE DEAD with a new expanded G-League even if they have more developmental teams, but it won’t be growing as a sport either. Younger fans who gravitate towards the up and coming high school stars will follow them where they go. Increased competition will make it harder to watch the games you want to see on a national scale. Players will always enter the college ranks, but basketball, in particular, is great at showcasing individual talent, and that talent will go where it best feels it can be showcased to set oneself up for the future.
The NCAA has had a domestic monopoly on that position for years, but not any longer. Time will tell what kind of threat it turns out to be, but the success and innovation of the NBA are not what I would want coming after me if I was a monolithic entity without a clear vision toward the future, which the NCAA appears to be.