Today, it was announced that the NBA G League will be offering “select prospects” 125k contracts to play in the G League instead of the one and done college approach. This is absolutely huge for the athletes and NCAA basketball as well.

For decades the NCAA has taken a rather visceral approach to how they handle the student-athlete. They took every opportunity to profit off of these players, while hiding behind the amateurism model and “free education” approach – an approach that does not cover every student-athlete.

The student-athlete code of conduct covers every athlete, not just those that are fortunate enough to get a full-ride scholarship. People often default to the superstars as examples, but lest we forget the little guy. The guy not on scholly. The guy who cannot even play fantasy football for money, or technically take a free sandwich from his local Subway. So basically to sum it up – the NCAA blows from top to bottom. 

Troubles with the NCAA Model

The NCAA has always engaged in a modest form of modern day slavery. Yes, I know what some of you are probably thinking and I see your diatribe in the comment sections of every NCAA related article – “Bullshit, they don’t HAVE to play basketball, football, or any of these sports. It is both their choice and a privilege.” Well I am here to tell you, that in a lot of cases, it is not a choice. 

For a lot of these players, it’s either play ball or join a gang. Play ball or join the military. Play ball or live in poverty for the rest of their lives. So, when the NCAA takes an athlete that has very little to no other option, forces him to abide by a ridiculous set of strict rules that limit their earning potential, while earning maximum profit from said athlete, then yes that is a modest form of modern slavery.

That is why I absolutely LOVE what the G League is going to do with future superstars.

Per ESPN report today:

It will target recent or would-be high school graduates who otherwise would have likely spent just one season playing college basketball, enticing them not only with a six-figure salary but also the opportunity to benefit from NBA infrastructure, as well as a bevy of off-court development programs “geared towards facilitating and accelerating their transition to the pro game,” [league president] Malcolm Turner said.

Pros of Having Educational Opportunities

For the large majority of student-athletes, they do benefit greatly from being a talented athlete. There is no denying the benefits that student-athletes experience while in college –

Via Temple Now – Temple University
  • Free or reduced-price education. Average cost of four years of education at a public university is $37,640 for in state, and $95,560 for out of state. Private institutions are much higher.
  • The life-long benefits of being part of the history of a university. To call yourself a graduating member of that university, which in the future, could benefit you in making connections.
  • The social benefits of being a student-athlete on campus. There are always ways to use your athletic stature to benefit you socially, whether it be making friends, connections, women, parties, favors, etc. Being a student athlete, especially at major athletic powers, has a special lore to it, and people eat that up.

There are many other examples we can use, but we need to realize something – you cannot lump in every athlete into the same category.

Some athletes are more special than others – the top 1%. I know we live in a world where a lot of people try to dismiss the superiority of others, but you simply cannot deny this in athletics. You cannot design a set of rules that you believe benefit a large portion of your student-athlete base, but simply ignore the realities of your most elite athletes. The ones that bring you the largest return on revenue. 

Pros of Having the Opportunity from the G League

DeAndre Ayton was part of a scandal he could have avoided by going to the G League

What the G League is doing is allowing the elite athletes to have choices. Should these elite players choose to take the G Leagues offer, some major benefits come with it-

  • The opportunity to take the $125k and support themselves and their families legally, without worrying about the repercussions of an NCAA investigation. No longer feel the pressure and stress of possibly having his legacy tarnished in the future from improper benefits, having his coaches legacy tarnished, and impacting the programs future for future players to deal with. Players in states like Texas and Florida will receive the benefit of no state tax as well.
  • The opportunity to make money off of their likeness. The opportunity to sign contracts and potentially make millions a year before even stepping onto an NBA court. This means that if the player gets injured, they may have already signed a lucrative deal and that injury may not prevent them from making money. In the NCAA, an injury could potentially cost them millions. 
  • The opportunity to play against a larger talent pool. You can argue now that the G League is more competitive, as a whole, than the NCAA. Imagine if you take a chunk of the one and done elite guys, and throw them into the G League – you will have a major upgrade to the G League, which benefits both the NBA and the ball players. 
  • The fact that you are a professional basketball player, with an almost guarantee to get to the league at some point, is definitely enough to get you social privileges similar to those awarded to student-athletes. One can even make an argument that you may see an upgrade in the talent pool for your choice of people to surround yourself with, as you are legally allowed to be approached by people who could benefit you financially, socially, and with any connections you made need. It also does not stop you from stepping foot on campuses across the country to experience the social aspects of college nightlife. 

As you can see, there are some major benefits to this new opportunity for the elite players coming out of high school. By 2022, the NBA may change its rule back to allowing high school players to be drafted, but until then, this is a major upgraded opportunity for elite college players. You absolutely cannot deny the benefits this will have on players for at least the next 3-4 years.

Benefits for the NCAA

I think the edition of the G League offer may actually benefit the NCAA in the long run. Sure it will have some of its star power gone yearly when it is lost to the G League, but the NCAA and NCAA Tournament were extremely successful when the elite talent went straight from high school to the NBA regardless.

Most of the NBA superstars and past greats were not ready to make the jump straight to the NBA, and many in the future will not be afforded the opportunity, nor be ready for the G League contract. The NCAA will still have a boatload of talent coming through, and this may actually lead to more parity come NCAA Tournament time.

Oregon students trolling DeAndre Ayton during a match up with Arizona

This could clean up NCAA basketball a bit. You will never fully end “illegal benefits” as long as the NCAA continues its amateurism model where it deems benefits of any kind as illegal. You will always have top prospects receiving certain “things” to attend a specific university. However, what allowing elite players to go to the G League will provide, is possibly a lower level of corruption.

You could possibly see outlandish benefits like homes and luxury cars become less of a norm, and more schools having an opportunity to land those solid 4-5 star recruits that will impact their teams and create parity in the NCAA. I always thought that if you at least allow for a player to make money off of his likeness, that you could eliminate at least half of the corruption, and create more parity in sports.

Final Thoughts

I do not believe this is a cure all for the NCAA. I do not believe that corruption will cease to exist. For the select few top athletes coming out of high school that are awarded this opportunity with the G League, it could afford a world of opportunities for them. It has been a long time coming. I hope this trickles into other sports and opportunities for athletes to make money off of THEIR talent.

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Brandon Sharples