KC Star columinst Jason Whitlock offered an interesting theory on how to make the NBA better and that is by reducing the number of early entrants in an effort to make these kids go to college first, allow them to make a name for themselves at that level then go to the NBA:
LeBron James, allegedly, is a big star. He has a huge shoe contract. He’s featured in clever commercials. His face is recognized around the world. So why didn’t people tune in to see him play in the NBA finals?
Because basketball fans in Lawrence and Bloomington, Ind., and Durham, N.C., and all the other little basketball hotbeds don’t care about LeBron James. He didn’t play their game. Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan built gigantic college followings and brought those passionate fans with them to the NBA.
I totally agree with that because I know my interest in the NBA rose and fell based on the presence of Michael Jordan(because he went to UNC) and any other UNC player out there. In fact I watched an MJ game on ESPN Classic and would have chosen that over this year's NBA Finals had it been on at the same time. If you read the message board at Inside Carolina you see the NBA interest centers almost exclusively on the UNC players in the league which means there are fans to be had if they are associated with a college to begin with and not just one year either. I would also argue that from the standpoint of sheer physical maturity and fundamentals that the longer these guys stay in college the better they are in professional basketball. Roy said as much about Brandan Wright but the NBA is in a "draft for potential" cycle which causes mass numbers of players to hit the league after one year in school and very little name recognition. As for the individual players, THF commenter Josh Bowling made a similar point when Wright declared:
Just one more successful Carolina year capped with a final 4 finish, and Brandan being a big part of it could result in "name recognition" and big endorsement deals for him. It is not always "what you can get now", sometimes patience pays off. In Brandan’s situation, I think it could, significantly!
In the grand scheme of things everyone benefits from these kids staying in school for at least two years. The only ones who do not benefit are those handful who want the money now and any hanger-ons who are looking to cash in off a friend/relatives' success. If the NBA is the top of the pyramid then what happens when the foundation starts to crumble?
Hat tip: ACC Now
Quick Note: Can I ask one question...why on earth does Whitlock include Durham in his list of college towns? Yes I know Duke is very good but does Whitlock know that Duke only has 6000 students and that people in Durham are not necessarily huge Duke fans just because the team is there. Basketball fans are far more represented in the population in Chapel Hill because UNC is more a part of the community than Duke is in Durham. At least that is how I see it.