May 20, 2008

Under the Table, Over the Line

...What y'all mean? Handlin' since a teen, like LeBron or Sebastian, high school graduates. Straight to the league, I ain't waitin' for my knee to blow, yesterday I was needin' this dough. Get it? I was kneadin' this dough...
- Jay-Z, Dead Presidents 3

Well, well, well. The ugly (some would say inevitable) repercussions of Big Poppa Stern's age limit have finally reared their heads in the form of 1 and done USC star, OJ Mayo.

(Important to note, if I name my son OJ for some reason, there is NO WAY I would let him attend USC, under any circumstances. OJs have had a rough run there.)

Anyway, the monetization of non-professional basketball in America has roots WAY deeper than this age limit (ranking 8th graders, colleges signing 10th graders, the AAU programs), but Stern and co. pushed this fringe business to the forefront by adding the age restriction. Normally, high schools were more than willing to ignore fancy clothes, basketball camps, private coaches, as long as the banners hung in the rafters, and the seats were filled on game day. Now, with the advent of the required year in college, these opportunist leeches have to keep their hooks in an extra year, and under the microscope of the NCAA.

Now, of course you'll get the points that would appear to be outside of all of this, like Oden and Durant, posterboys for the age limit (it would seem), but for the vast majority of players, the temptation is too great, and is there for far too long. I understand the reason Mr. Stern implemented such a policy, because for every LeBron or Kobe, there are 20 kids who never get picked up, and have forfeited a shot at playing for the NCAA. Plus, there is more money to be made on rookies if they are commodities and name brands coming out of the tournament than if they are unknown high schoolers.

I get all that.

All I'm saying is that the abject horror and outrage is a complete over reaction. Everyone involved in basketball has been aware of these practices for years, and if they really weren't, then shame on them. Hopefully, this will be the beginning of the cleaning up of amateur basketball, restoring some purity to a sport so sullied by the underhanded dealings of those wanting to make money on the dreams of children.

Or, it will lead to us as a society turning another blind eye until the next one-and-done star gets exposed. I suspect the latter.

UPDATE: Liars.

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