March 3, 2014

Basketball Jones

Guest Post by Jamie Ruff 

Sport is indeed a microcosm of society and here’s another example of how it’s socialism for the wealthy but capitalism for the rest of us.

The NBA is starting to throw support behind an NCAA rule mandating collegians play at least two years of college basketball before becoming eligible for the professional draft. It wasn't that long ago, however, that the league backed a rule requiring every high school student to play at least one year of college ball.

The argument was then, and continues to be, that the time in college lets the players better develop his game while also giving college basketball fans a better "product." 

Perhaps. The question, however, is what that has to do with the draft choices these professional franchises make?

This change would have nothing to do with giving a better product for the public, and everything to do with helping owners avoid their own dumb draft picks. The wealthy NBA owners want someone to save them from themselves by blocking them from paying millions to someone who may not have the maturity -- or character -- to succeed at the game's highest level .

Fine, you say? Why shouldn’t they?

Well, because that’s not how capitalism works for most of us.

There is no casino in Las Vegas or New Jersey or anywhere in between where the casino cuts you off before you lose the house payment. The theory is that you might win way bigger than you lose. See, that’s how capitalism works. In other words, you have a right to be stupid.

But, of course, that’s because that’s your money, and these owners are talking about their money. So it’s time to change the rules.

The fact is professional franchises aren’t required to draft underclassmen, anymore than they were required to draft someone straight out of high school. That’s a choice they made. The problem was that for every Kobe or LeBron, there was probably seven Kwame Browns - high schoolers with tons of potential who, for one reason or another, never paid off. 

The smart money would say draft the known product, the one you’ve gotten to know thoroughly over four years in college; that’s what the smart money say; but everybody is afraid they might be the one to miss out on the next great thing, so time and again they have overlooked seniors whose limitations they had been able to see and gone for “potential” and “upside.” 

Tired of getting burned more than rewarded, the owners decided to remove the temptation to bet big and lose big by ducking out on drafting high school wonders; now they want that temptation moved even further away by one more year.

That’s how to say steps aren’t sometimes taken to protect consumers. But when Congress created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau with the intention of protecting the interest of consumers against the double-speak legalese of the likes of mortgage lenders and big banks, opponents dismissed the effort as unnatural. It seems that if you’re not smart enough to out-think high-priced lawyers and multimillion-dollar corporations looking to trap you in bad debt, well, that’s on you.  

Capitalism would say shouldn’t anyone who thinks he has the talent to make it in the NBA be able to enter the draft? I mean, in theory I can submit my name for consideration, though I guarantee you that after looking at my statistics – age, weight the fact I never played organized basketball and couldn’t even make my high school JV team – there would be no way I would be drafted. And why should I be? The point is, I could declare, but no one would be obligated to take me. So there.

Look, if the change takes place – and I have can’t help but think the rumblings are a sign of what is to come – it is most certainly to be mutually beneficial to both products, professional and collegian. But make no mistake, that’s a byproduct of a selfish decision of two wealthy organizations looking to stay that way and not caring what it means to you.
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