One and dumb: Thoughts on NBA eligibility from The Jersey Shore
My great-grandma is 95 years old. She still mows the lawn,
remarried after losing her husband of 69 years and sends me a
five-dollar bill every year on my birthday.
Sometimes I wonder if she knows about Snooki. To a woman born
in 1915, the thought of a young woman who openly celebrates
vulgarity and welcomes cameras documenting her sexual exploits is
I figure 99-year-old John Wooden experiences those same
feelings when he watches basketball these days. His mentor and
coach at Purdue, Ward “Piggy” Lambert, refused to
participate in tournaments held at Madison Square Garden because
“he felt Madison Square Garden’s commercialization
invited temptation and trouble for college athletes…”
That was in 1927.
Back in November, I got the chance to sit down with legendary
Purdue coach, Gene Keady. Even though I was pretty sure I knew what
his answer would be, I decided to ask his take on NBA eligibility
rules. No shocker there. Much like Coach Wooden, Keady wasn’t
Just as feminists and women’s rights activists are
often caught in between the desire for empowerment and, well,
Snooki, the basketball community struggles to find a balance
between tradition and progression.
Tradition says go to college, get a job during the offseason,
stay four years, graduate and, ideally, marry your high school
sweetheart soon after. John Wooden was an English teacher, after
all. Try picturing Rick Pitino teach Hamlet. Well, maybe he has
some insight there…
Anyway, the point is that (in case no one else has noticed)
things have changed. My dad has coached high school basketball in
downtown Phoenix for thirty years. Although he’s not much of
a complainer, I’ve noticed that his job as a coach has gotten
more difficult over time. Before you even step on the floor,
you’re listening to fourteen year olds talk about going to
the League. How do they know? Well, because their
“trainer” told them so, of course. Add to that the
struggles that come with being the only male authority in most of
their lives, and you have some problems.
How do you convince a kid to make personal sacrifices for the
good of the team when in his mind, he’s on a fast track to
making millions if he looks out for number one. “Pass? Why
pass? That’s costing me money, man.”
As much as it’s in my nature to say that young men
should be required to go to college and learn somethin’
before they enter the NBA, the old dogma doesn’t work
anymore. Requiring a waiting period of one year after expected high
school graduation (no, they aren’t required to earn a high
school diploma) is just as silly.
To many, college is about making more money. We continue to
tell high school students that the ultimate purpose of college is
not just to be educated, but to be educated so that you can make
more money than someone who is uneducated. Education is a means to
If natural abilities and talents allow you to be financially
successful without four years of traditional education, why walk
down that road when you can fly?
The “character training” argument is fading fast.
The rapper turned preacher, Mase, said it best when he said
“Mo’ money, mo’ problems.” College coaches
are paid millions of dollars a year to win basketball games.
That’s a few million too many to make character training the
focus of most programs. In fact, many programs have turned to
character disguising instead. “Don’t put your pictures
on Facebook. Make your Twitter profile private. What happens in the
locker room, stays in the locker room.”
One coach’s press conference discussing extortion from
an extramarital affair in a local restaurant and money paid for
“health insurance” after an untimely and inconvenient
pregnancy and you can hear mothers asking “…and
I’m supposed to send my boy here to become a man?”
Don’t worry though mom,
What do Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett and Lebron
James have in common? Not college. Why would you want to do things
differently than the guy whose jersey you’re wearing?
Our society tells young men that they are a success when they
attain power and wealth. Don’t plan on hearing the media talk
about the unsuccessful Tiger Woods. The sad truth is that many men
would still jump at the chance to trade lives with him.
Natural ability trumps education in most fields. Ask Rush
Limbaugh, who only has a high school diploma. Simon Cowell? No
college degree. But what about the CEO’s, right? Former Fox
Broadcasting Company’s CEO and Chairman Barry Diller never
went to college. And hey, worst case scenario, who needs a degree
to have your own reality TV show?
Though Kentucky’s freshman phenom, John Wall,
understood the NBA’s eligibility rule, it didn’t deter
him from making his purpose in college clear. When asked about his
impending college choice, Wall simply stated, “I need a coach
to push me to make sure I get to the next level as soon as
At least he’s honest.
Does anyone really believe that one year on a college campus
is going to help the NBA with its image? The one and done guys in
college step foot on campus as celebrities. If anything, this year
only confirms the fact that they are entitled and worthy of special
Bottom line. If the NBA is really serious about the maturity
and preparedness of its employees/investments, they’ll act
like most other lucrative professions do.
Want to be an accountant? Gotta pass a test. Attorney? Test.
Doctor? Test. Prove that you understand the responsibility that
comes with your paycheck. Prove that you respect the game and its
fans, and understand the magnitude of the brand you represent.
You don’t pass? Maybe four years of college will help.
My dad’s go to response whenever I don’t
understand why someone does something unethical is “Sam,
follow the money.” The older I get, the more I see how real
that is. The NBA isn’t willing to lose four years of young
money so that players can develop off the court. Even one is
By requiring a one-year waiting period, they give the
illusion of caring about the education of their players, and still
throw the NCAA a bone by providing them one year of the John Wall
NBA guys have a players union to look out for their best
interests. NCAA guys have their moms.
In a recent conversation with an NBA scout I was convinced
that basketball is changing.
Hi, Mom. Meet Snooki.