LaVar and the G-League

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past year you know the name LaVar Ball. If that name doesn’t quite jog your memory, he is the father of the Lakers’ first-round draft pick, Lonzo Ball. Instead of signing a contract with one of the normal shoe companies like Adidas or Nike, the family started an apparel company called Big Baller Brand. LaVar has three sons, Lonzo being the oldest. The middle son is Liangelo and the youngest is Lamello.  

LaVar’s original plan was to have all three of his boys play for UCLA (close to their Chino Hills home) and then play in the NBA for the Lakers. I’m sure you also have a very strong opinion on him — as everyone does — and I assume for the most part, that it is negative. But, like it or not, his first son did go to UCLA and was drafted No. 2 overall by, yup you guessed it, the Lakers.

Ball is an anarchist and certainly an imperfect messenger, but his ideas should not be dismissed just because they are different. The root of a lot of what he is doing is smart — they are educated decisions but are executed by a bombastic blowhard that many people don’t like so the ideas are categorized as “stupid” or “selfish”.

Ball recently sent his two youngest sons to play professionally in Lithuania and it has been rumored he is starting up a developmental league in the U.S. for five-star basketball recruits who don't want to go to college. For some reason, this news caused quite an uproar in the United States, but I really can't figure out why other than the fact that everyone hates the messenger.

America is one of, if not the only, country that doesn't have developmental leagues for young aspiring professional athletes. In America, we tell every kid he or she has to go to college and he or she has the privilege of receiving this education to go with it. Simultaneously, the universities make millions of dollars off of these high-profile athletes by using their likeness on posters and commercials and selling jerseys with their numbers on it. They take them out of school for the entire month of March so they can compete in the National tournament AND ultimately the kids won't be in school long enough to even earn that prestigious degree the school keeps reminding them they are paying for.

Tell me how that is fair? Several of these kids would go straight to the NBA and start earning money for their families, but the NBA created the one-and-done rule, making it so kids have to go to college for at least one year. There is nowhere else they can go!  It’s not fair, it’s a corrupt way to ensure the universities and shoe companies prosper off these athletes instead of anyone else, God forbid their own families. Countries like Europe have developmental leagues that teach young kids who are on the path to professional sports how to be a professional. They are surrounded by other professionals, they learn how to handle their money, how to handle fame, how to market themselves, how to work like a pro AND THEY GET PAID! Kids who know they are going to the NBA don't need a level 100 philosophy course, they need to learn how to balance their checkbook and if they leave before their junior year they probably won't even get to their major-specific classes.

Look at any of the top basketball programs in the country: Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, etc. How many seniors are on those teams? Kentucky is known as the one and done capital and they get all the best recruits because these kids are tired of being exploited. Coach Calipari comes into their living rooms and says, “I’ll get you to the NBA in one season and get you paid,” and that’s why they come.

Here is the kicker though: The NBA has a developmental league. It is called the G-League. All this discourse on whether or not college athletes should be paid stems from the fact that they literally can’t get paid in any way, shape or form, anywhere. If the NBA expanded their G-league to allow players coming out of high school it would be a step in the right direction.

Tell me why a college kid who is an artist can paint a masterpiece and sell it online for a million dollars and won't be penalized, but if someone wants to pay an athlete $500,000 to sign some autographs the day after he led his team to a National Championship that also resulted in more than $1.27 million paid out in raises to assistant coaches, he will lose his scholarship? Amateurism is quite literally a made up term by the NCAA to keep college athletes from getting paid and now we have accepted it as part of our society. Google it.

What bothers me most about this is that most of the arguments I hear against this are, “I didn't get any money when I was in college and I was fine, why should these kids get paid?”  That sounds incredibly selfish if you ask me. Apparently, the hypocrisy doesn’t resonate because generally those are the same people who crucify Ball for, “trying to make money off his kids.” It’s a broken system. Why is everyone OK with Nike, Under Armour, Ohio State, USC, etc. exploiting kids for millions? Well, because you are used to it. I want to be clear, I'm not advocating for Lavar Ball to run this organization or to even prosper. I’m saying we, as a country, need to think a little deeper and stop doing something a certain way just because that’s the way it has always been done.

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