By Caleb Jonkman
So many times within the realm of college basketball people want to look at performance alone. It’s easy to do. In all things entertainment and sports it’s easy to be a fan of the process and not a student of it. However, there are certain advantages to viewing the process and the principles behind it as a student. One specific part of the process that is critical to view as a student is the dynamic between the student-athlete and the professional or NBA realm. A huge trend we are seeing in college basketball is players going to an institution with no focus on their education. They attend college only for a passing point between their present amateur status and the NBA I hope to shed some light onto why this is happening, and in a way explain how unless things change with the current system this practice is logical. Let’s dive in.
It’s no secret: NBA players make a lot of money. I mean a lot. On average NBA players make $5.15 Million dollars a year. That is staggering. And when faced with a decision of whether to stay in school or make that kind of money, to most that is an easy decision. Let’s weigh the pros of leaving.
No pun intended, you become a pro. All the amenities, benefits, and freedoms come with that as well. No waking up for 8 A.M classes, no study sessions, no cafeteria food. You are living the high life. You go from broke to a millionaire overnight. This is usually the most appealing aspect for many young men. A large percentage of players that make it to the league often do not come from the most supportive or healthy backgrounds, so the prospect of millions of dollars to not only help yourself but your family is often too nice to turn down. A third pro is sustainability. The average lifespan of a NBA career is 4.8 years. From an age perspective, most players can enter the draft, and be playing in the league by age 19. If you stay in college until you are a senior, and are 22, you are significantly decreasing your earning potential and career lifespan. Organizations don’t want to take a risk on a fully molded player. Teams want raw talent that they can mold into the prototype player they have in mind.
All these positives about professional basketball could make staying in college the lesser option. But not so fast. The most relevant argument for staying comes in the form of job security. Unless you are an all-star, there is no such thing as job security in the NBA. Your job is not safe at any point. If you get hurt, or you underperform, then there is no guarantee that you will have a job in a month, much less alone a year. Having a college degree gives you a legitimate backup plan to fall back on in case things do not go according to plan.
Another pro of staying is the scholarship. Very few people can say that they have attended a division 1 school and graduated with no debt, and these athletes have this opportunity. Because of how prominent a degree from some of these schools are and access to masters programs, student-athletes have the ability to positively construct their futures.
The greatest asset is staying in school and on a team gives you is the ability to learn valuable leadership and life skills. I can say from experience that being on a team and going through the ups, downs, and everything in between has shaped me into the man I am today. Losing out on those experiences or growth opportunities severely inhibits the future of a lot of these young men. We see it way too often, young star messes up or struggles making the adjustment. Staying in schools allows you time to develop key leadership and life skills that make a direct impact into your future career and relationships.
All and all, I think the decision to go is entirely based on each individual case. Some young men are ready at 19 and some aren’t. The NCAA is making it extremely difficult to incentivize players to stay or be active in a program. If the NCAA does not change its mentality of greed to servanthood they are going to end up being the major losers not winners in the long run. Student-athletes must come first, and if the NCAA learns to prioritize this, the one and done era may begin to slow down.