BY RYAN MERARD
The route for professional athletes has typically been the same since the 1900s. Players who plan to reach the professional level either go overseas or to college after high school in order to do so. Despite the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) prohibiting student athletes from being able to profit off of themselves, college sports is the more popular choice.
In recent months, there has been an emerging threat towards the future of college basketball that has been gaining traction in the sports world: the National Basketball Association (NBA) G-league. The G-league is the NBA’s official minor league, where athletes who aim to make the NBA prepare for the pro level. Starting in 2018, the NBA allowed the minor league to offer select contracts to 18-year-olds to provide a pathway to the NBA that was different from college basketball. G-league prospects coming from high school hope to complete one season with the development league and then become drafted into the NBA the following season.
It has also been made public by the NBA’s commissioner, Adam Silver, that the “one and done” rule will be lifted and athletes will be allowed to go from high school to the pros. This will add another challenge to the NCAA, as even more young prodigies may skip out on the college experience.
A few top high school recruits, such as five-star recruits Jalen Green and Isiah Todd, have recently signed with the G-league for contracts as high as $500,000 straight out of high school instead of taking the traditional college route. The NCAA may not face any direct challenges soon, but many believe that this new alternative pathway is starting to evolve how high school recruits enter the NBA.
With this new pathway, there are not many visible problems that come with it. The student-athletes who receive select contracts are able to make six figure salaries in a season right out of high school, and the season only lasts for five months. They can even go back to college after being drafted. The G-league helps kids focus on one intention: to make the NBA. Then, they can focus on academics later in life if they choose to.
The real problem with the G-league is the trouble that it could cause the NCAA.
The real problem with the G-league is the trouble that it could cause the NCAA. A few top recruits who were originally supposed to go to college have recently taken advantage of the alternative opportunity given to them via the G-league. This select group of highschoolers may be small, but the numbers are more than likely to increase. The G-league could soon create their own fan base by recruiting more high school athletes, especially famous ones, simultaneously taking more fans away from the NCAA.
With top high school recruits choosing to play in the G-league over college, many believe that the future of college basketball is in jeopardy unless they start to let athletes make money. The NCAA quickly responded to the loss of top recruits by preparing a major rule change that would allow collegiate student-athletes to make money off of their image and likeness in 2021. This would allow for NCAA athletes to finally be able to have sponsors and sign deals with major companies.
Even with this rule in place, high school athletes may still be geared towards the G-league, as it gives them a definite salary, as well as the opportunity to further build up their draft stock against higher quality opponents than those in the NCAA. If both choices are laid side-by-side, many 18-year-olds would choose to make six figures right out of high school over taking an extra year to get paid.
The downfall that the G-league could cause to college basketball may not be anything drastic. However, the G-league has now set itself up to become the leading option for high school prospects looking to go pro. Unless the NCAA makes vital changes to their program, hype for college basketball tournaments such as March Madness could eventually die down. The benefits given to young athletes by the G-league overweigh those of the NCAA.
As more and more elite high school athletes plan to take an untraditional path to the NBA, how the NCAA attempts to keep the hype of college basketball alive will be an interesting task to see them carry out for the next coming years.
Photo courtesy of Clutch Points