In a world without live sports, the NFL draft emerged as the shining star on an otherwise bleak landscape. The draft offered a distraction from reality, serving as a symbol of hope that sports, even if only one not named virtual IndyCar, would begin on time.
But the NFL draft has come and gone. As we sit in its ashes and go to bed thinking about how Tampa Bay is somehow a fan base to be jealous of, we seem to have overlooked one of the bigger developments to happen in a major sport in quite some time.
Re-enter college basketball.
The fall of the biggest domino
The development didn’t begin with Jalen Green, but he threw industrial-strength rocket fuel on the existing spark. ESPN’s No. 1 ranked prospect in the 2020 high school class and the widely projected No. 2 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, Green decided to sidestep the juggernaut that is college basketball and enter… the NBA G-League.
And in a matter of only a few days, fellow ESPN top 100 prospects Isaiah Todd, Makur Maker, and Kai Soto followed suit and are showing strong consideration for the NBA’s developmental program. The four prospects might be chasing the fame and ego boost that comes with playing for the Sioux Falls Skyforce in South Dakota, but it also might have something to do with what sources claim will be a $375,000 salary increase for elite prospects and access to a one-year developmental program devoted entirely to enhancing their career in the NBA.
Whatever your gut tells you about why they made such a ludicrous decision, college basketball is about to lose top talent in a hurry, reshaping the identity of the NCAA and the sport forever.
Why College Basketball fans should hate this
The “one-and-done era” in college basketball began in 2006 when, under the fresh reign of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, the league raised the age requirement of the draft to 19 and forced top prospects to spend at least that year playing elsewhere, with the majority of top talent choosing a college.
The era has graced college basketball with the likes of Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, John Wall, some guy named Zion, and a laundry list of other stars so long that it would rival a CVS receipt. If you are a college basketball fan that tunes in to see big dunks, players in interviews subtly hinting that their coaches are paying them six figures, and what Zion’s six-cone drill time was, this new development is crushing news and gives you little incentive to tune in to Bradley vs. Murray State.
Reports are that the NBA Players Association is not willing to cave on the age requirement for the draft, but if the NBA G-League, and Australian NBL, suddenly becomes more attractive than faking going to college classes for a semester, college basketball is set to lose some steam.
Like it or not, college basketball is a business, and top prospects are no longer introduced to the world in college basketball, but in high school. For reference, that guy named Zion had almost 200K followers on Instagram a little more than halfway through his junior year. With viewers building attachments to players before the players go to Prom, those same viewers could bypass college basketball like the players and just watch the NBA.
While ratings for March Madness and the Final Four took a dip shortly after entering into the new era in 2006, worries are now that college basketball could lose the player-centric audience almost entirely. Lower ratings lead to panic, and when CBS and Turner Broadcasting’s absurd deal with the tournament ends in 2032, the NCAA and various basketball programs around the country could be in trouble.