April 05, 2002
The life of Reilly

Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly makes his case that the NBA and the NCAA would both be better off if more star basketball players would stick around through their senior seasons. He makes a good point, but goes more than a bit overboard here:

The way it should be: Fans thrilled to the moves of Duke All-America Kobe Bryant, Michigan star Kevin Garnett and Kentucky hero Tracy McGrady.

The way it is: Accountants thrilled to the moves of Bryant, Garnett and McGrady, all of whom jumped from high school to a paycheck in the pros.

Good grief, man, what are you saying here? That only those who profited from these guys' contracts have been thrilled by them? I'm pretty sure that Lakers fans have cheered for Kobe Bryant once or twice since he entered the NBA. I think I can even recall seeing these fellas on the tube a few times. Reilly has his blind spots, such as his vicious hatchet job on Barry Bonds last year, but he's usually more coherent than this.

Well, chin up, Ricky. As King Kaufman points out, "[s]tar players leaving big programs before their senior year have contributed to the rise, especially in the Tournament, of teams from so-called mid-major conferences, teams that tend to retain their stars, who aren't quite as shiny as those in the major conferences." This in turn leads to the upsets and Cinderella stories that, you know, help make the NCAA tournament exciting in the first place. Do you really want Duke to win the championship every year? I for one call that boring.

Further, I agree with Kaufman when he says that "the pendulum's going to swing back, and you're going to start seeing more top players stick around in college for longer". The NBA will eventually come to the realization that it's not in their best financial interests to do so much speculation on unproven kids in the draft. Market forces at work - whoda thunk it? Reilly himself provides evidence for this:

In the 2001 draft 54 underclassmen entered early, but only 36 were drafted, and five of those are already out of the league.

And sooner or later, some of these guys are going to conclude that maybe they ought to stay in school an extra year or two. Enlightened self-interest and all that.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on April 05, 2002 to Other sports