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College Basketball Is Not Here to Build Your Brand

ACC Now points to this Jason Whitlock column placing the blame for the NBA's low ratings on those pesky kids skippping college. Because... I'd better just let Jason tell it:

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.

Ah, that's the ticket. Those NBA finals would have been a lot better with a team led by a four-year collegiate player. Like Tim Duncan or somebody.

This theory intrigued me, so I took a look at the Spurs' and Cavaliers' rosters. Out of the thirty players, there are:

  • Two Dastardly High Schoolers: Jackie Butler and some LeBron James guy.
  • Seven Dirty Foreigners: Manu Ginobili, Fabricio Oberto, Tony Parker, Beno Udrih, Žydrūnas Ilgauskas, Sasha Pavlović, and Anderson Varejão.
  • Seven Shiftless College Shirkers: Damon Jones (3 yrs), Daniel Gibson (2 yrs), Shannon Brown (3 yrs), Donyell Marshall (3 yrs), Dwayne Jones (3 yrs), Drew Gooden (3 yrs), and Larry Hughes (1 yr).
  • Fourteen College Graduates: Brent Barry (Oregon State, '95), Matt Bonner (Florida, '03), Bruce Bowen (Cal State Fullerton, '93), Tim Duncan (Wake Forest, '97), Francisco Elson (California, '99), Robert Horry (Alabama, '92), Jacque Vaughn (Kansas, '97), James White (Cincinnati, '06), Ira Newble (Miami (OH), '00), Scot Pollard (Kansas, '97), Eric Snow (Michigan State, '95), Melvin Ely (Fresno State, '02), Michael Finley (Wisconsin, '95), and David Wesley (Baylor, '92).
Yep, it's the dearth of college graduates that are killing the NBA. Now we can dispense with all those far-fetched reasons, like "small market teams" or "eternally long playoff format" or "the best two teams meeting in the second round" or "a matchup with all the suspense of a Dora the Explorer episode". No, thanks to Jason Whitlock we can just blame LeBron James and call it a day. Save the NBA, LeBron and come to college. For UNC.