Thursday, July 17, 2008

Brett Favre? Whatever. Brandon Jennings is the story.

For starters:

At this point, I'm not sure I care what happens between Brett Favre and the Packers. Is anyone surprised that he's changed his mind about retiring? No. Is anyone surprised that the Packers are now between a rock and a hard place? No. Let's just get him in a Panthers jersey and call it a day. Yeah, right.

Okay then, now:

Has an 18-year-old kid just opened the floodgates for reforming the NCAA/NBA system? The potential is certainly there. By signing with Pallacanestro Virtus Roma Oak Hill Academy's Brandon Jennings has proved what everyone should have known all along: American players don't need to go to college in order to go pro and make a lot of money. Hell, they don't even need to go to the NBA in order to go pro and make a lot of money.

I'll admit, I have, in the past, been one of those people who griped about players leaving college early for the NBA. I liked the idea of the one-year rule. Why? Because I'm a college basketball fan, and college basketball is less fun when your favorite players don't stick around for all four years, or don't show up on campus at all. Had the one-year rule been in effect back in 1996, oh, can you imagine: Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Ed Cota, and Kobe? Together? In the Dean Dome? Oh, I salivate at the thought.

But you know, Kobe's done rather well for himself without the NCAA, and that's really the point here. Was college going to benefit him at all? Does college benefit basketball players who don't want to be there, but do want a chance to play pro basketball?

Not necessarily.

College basketball should be played by college students who want to play basketball, but would probably be on campus even if they didn't. It should not be played by basketball players who would never consider going anywhere close to another academic institution after high school graduation if it weren't for the current system of making it to the NBA.

But the one-year suits both the NCAA and the NBA quite well. The NCAA makes money off of the talented players, many of whom probably don't want to be in college anyway. NCAA games make NBA scouting easy, or at least a lot easier than locating all of the high school gyms the scouts would otherwise need to visit.

And, theoretically, the rule suits the players. Go to college. Get the education that you need. Get more exposure. You'll be better off, really.

It's true that many college players benefit from the exposure. But there are some--Kobe, LeBron--who have done just fine without it. Do basketball players need a college education? Not if they don't want one. Does the NCAA need those same players in order for them to make the amount of money that they're accustomed to making? Absolutely.

But if they don't go to college, what will they do once they retire from basketball? I would buy this point if it weren't for the numerous people I know who willingly, without the promise of NBA fame and fortune, spent an average of four years obtaining completely useless degrees. Are you telling me that upon retiring from the NBA, a player is going to easily transition into the mundane world of non-NBA players because he has a Communication Studies degree (or in the case of Michael Jordan, a Geography degree)?

I don't think so. Brandon Jennings doesn't seem to think so. I applaud him, and am waiting to see if other high school players follow his lead.