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Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Jason Chung on Situation of Teenage Basketball Players Who Turn Pro

Over on The Situationist, Jason Chung has a thoughtful and provocative article on why the typical life circumstances of U.S. players who would like to seek the NBA right out of high school, and who are capable of being drafted right out of high school, are often missed by advocates of the NBA's age limit. He compares those players with reactions to European players, some of whom turn pro as young as 14 years old (e.g., Ricky Rubio turned pro at 14). Here is an excerpt from Jason's piece:

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Given that all these young athletes made seemingly informed, mature personal decisions, why is that Brandon Jennings [photographed above while living in Italy] has been ostracized by some quarters while the others have largely escaped such scrutiny? The answer may lie in the fact that our moral reasoning does not rest in an evidentiary basis. As Jonathan Haidt notes, “Most people gave no real evidence for their positions, and most made no effort to look for evidence opposing their initial positions.” As long as their point of view “makes sense” there is little reason to question their knee-jerk reaction.

Jennings’ position – that of rejecting a college athletic scholarship – unquestionably evokes a stronger negative reaction in the American psyche. In America, those with higher education are often better employed, possess higher earning power, and are considered a better fit for the modern economy than those without such an advantage. It is drilled into the minds of most Americans that higher education is the way to go in order to attain professional and personal success. In addition, for student-athletes, playing in the NCAA is viewed as the traditional way in which to interest NBA teams and to raise your draft profile. Jennings bucked conventional wisdom and the resulting immediate reaction on the part of some of the public and NBA analysts like Jalen Rose was to question the motivations, financial and otherwise, behind this decision.

This initial reaction is simply not supported by facts. . . .

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To read the rest, click here.


It is amazing that pundits who have little or no experience in the European Basketball world compare a 14 year Spanish player living in working in his home town & country with an American teenager
playing in a foreign country without the cultural tools to exist in a foreign country. BTW for every Rubio ( the jury is still out on his final career success) there are dozens of teenage players that crash & burn even their homelands.
The players would be better served to spend TWO years in college than ONE.
I have 36 years of experience in NBA matters as a player representative & Management Executive/attorney plus 30 years of repping players in Europe & a former Team owner in Greece.
Are the colleges ripping the kids off, sure. Give them a stipend and other small perks but do not lead these youngsters over the cliff with European dreams. Often older American players have trouble adjusting overseas no way 16-19 year olds would do better.

Anonymous Yorgo -- 9/01/2009 12:51 PM  

Hi Yorgo, thanks for your thoughts. This is the author of the Situationist article here.

I know that the transition to a foreign culture is a rough transition for many but isn't it conceivable that young athletes might be more open to such a move since they aren't as tied down by family obligations? After all, plenty of affluent young students go study overseas and there's nary a peep against that.

Also, I would argue against your main point that players should spend two years in college. The main crux of my article wasn't that the system is exploitative (which I would argue it is) but that kids from certain socioeconomic situations have precious little choice but to go after the immediate money in order to support themselves and their families. Two years in college, with no income, is hardly a choice when your family is facing eviction or worse. That's why I believe going to Europe is a viable option in cases such as these.


Anonymous Jason Chung -- 9/03/2009 11:06 PM  


Having represented many "hardship"
basketball players, I realize the economic circumstances at home quite well. But the success rate of early entry players is much lower than generally thought because the stars draw all the attention. Two years of college prepares them much better for pro basketball & life. As for foreign exchange students; they generally do not face fire bombs and angry mobs after failing a test but players do after losing a game. And
that is from their own fans !
And contrary to predictions of just last year, European basketball
does not have the financial backing to pay difference making money to one than one or two players a year if that. European basketball is dividing into the haves( now less than 12 teams) and everybody else. Feel free to contact if you wish to discuss this further; I enjoy the exercise.

Blogger George -- 9/04/2009 2:34 PM  

Hi George,

I guess my counter would be that it's not up to the NBA or the Euroleague to dictate that choice upon players of legal age to work. Even if some players would be better served by extra seasoning in college (which I don't dispute for most players), why should we limit access to a professional workplace with an artificial age floor? We let 17-18-19 year olds work in a variety of environments and even serve in wars - what makes them inherently unfit for professional basketball?

If an American teenager makes the choice (like his European counterparts) to go abroad and make money and get international experience even after having been apprised of the risks, then that's his decision. It might fail, it might prove to be the folly of youth but it's a bit patronizing to believe that you know better than the individual making the choice.

Also, if the kid blows out his knee in college (a serious risk) then what does he get? In that case the player might not get re-offered his athletic scholarship resulting in not get an education AND not get paid. If his situation is comfortable, that's an acceptable risk but if you come from a background like Jennings' would you take that chance?

Granted the money in question might not be as great as advertised in Europe. But the poverty line in America is pretty low and to make even 3-5 times that number even for a year could help establish the young athlete and his family in a different situation (maybe a move to a different area of town, maybe a chance to open a small business with the seed money).

I don't have access to the players and I'm sure you're right to point out that many young players might squander it. But if teams and leagues were so concerned about the players then make them get a financial advisor, don't bar them from earning a living.

Thanks for your viewpoints George. I understand where you're coming from and I enjoy our debates. Let me know if there's an address in which I can reach you off blog.


Anonymous Jason Chung -- 9/04/2009 8:34 PM

My comments are based on over 35 years of real life experience

I would like to explain the difference between theory & real world at great length with you

You mean well but these kids are not choosing the European teams from a college catalogue but are being exploited by street agents and worse

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