Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Lindsey McDaniel on "NBA: Mirror Image of Summer Youth Basketball Programs"

Several years ago on Sports Law Blog, I debated Lindsey McDaniel, an educator, learning designer and basketball coach in Georgia, about the NBA's age limit and dress code (in short, I opposed them, he supported them).  Lindsey has written the following essay, in which he argues, among other points, that basketball players should spend more time in college and that parents have become far too focused on unrealistic basketball dreams for their children.  Here is the essay:

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NBA: Mirror Image of Summer Youth Basketball Programs

The NBA was once a league of professional basketball players who possessed extraordinary skills. The players were considered the elite of the world due to a combination of athleticism, high basketball IQ, and a strategic mindset which far exceeded others who played the game for fun. The followers and fans of the game ranged from the executives in the boardroom to those who stood outside praying for a ticket to sit courtside. The child’s game in which Dr. Naismith created was perfected into an artistic expression of competition, where the individuals worked diligently to better their game, in order to be amongst the elite who played in the NBA. However, somewhere over time, the NBA took a turn for the worse when the opportunity to earn a substantial amount of money began to overshadow the ability to play a child’s game for fun and competition.

In the year 2004 the USA Olympic team which was comprised of players from the NBA, returned home with the Bronze Medal. In 1992, the first Olympic team with NBA players finished a rout of the Olympics, and brought home the Gold Medal with relative ease. The departure of those great players from the 1992 team has left a league which is in constant deterioration. The talented, skilled, and high basketball IQ players are outnumbered today by the money driven, selfish (THE DECISION), one on one, low basketball IQ, and all about me players. The debacle at the Olympics in 2004 was chalked up to as the rest of the world is catching up with the USA in regards to basketball talent. My thoughts on this are, the rest of the world is not catching up, but instead USA basketball is falling behind. The international game of basketball continues to appreciate the game the way Dr. Naismith intended it to be played. The international game works diligently on fundamentals, and strives to take one of the 400 spots at the NBA level. Therefore, it is not a coincidence when more and more international players are being drafted in the first round. It is not a coincidence that the champions of the NBA have at least one international player making a significant impact on their respective teams. However, home for the NBA is right here in the land of opportunity, the good old USA, and the talent pool is still primarily drawn from home grown soil. We have kids who are being sold false-dreams and convinced to enter the NBA draft, when they don’t have the strategic mindset or the mental capability to play at such a high level. However, he can perform a majestic dunk of a basketball, but don’t dare ask him to spell majestic in the interview after the game. So many can and would benefit from attending college a few more years, if they had their priorities in order, but how can you expect them to have their priorities in order when their parents are already shopping for their new Escalade.

One may not believe it, but at one time there was respect in this beautiful game. However, the potential to earn millions of dollars has spread like cancer, and is causing some coaches, parents, players from the professional level down to the grade school level to make some decisions which are borderline unethical. It is quite obvious there are some collegiate basketball programs which are now considered “one and done universities”, and there campus is only a pit-stop before the NBA draft. Therefore, since the draft is a few months away, why not pretend to attend some classes, and play some pick-up ball called March Madness. A downright disgrace and slap in the face to the programs who promote student-athletes first. Meanwhile the players at the amateur level are being groomed as early as 9 years old in summer basketball programs, which will ultimately form a loyalty allegiance as they get older; thus leading to a kid with superior talent either attending a school out of district or even out of state, as the super-teams are aligned. So why should this even matter, because the only sufferers are the high schools and districts where these students should have attended, if things were done ethically correct.

I realize that many probably want to blame the coaches at the amateur level, but in actuality the real blame should be placed on those parents who want to live their dream through their children, the same parents who see their child as a winning lottery ticket. Meanwhile they are easily convinced by these amateur coaches that their child is the next Michael Jordan, and focusing on basketball should be their number one priority. Some of these parents buy so easily into this grand scheme that they are willing to forfeit a year of their child’s education by having their child repeat a grade, so their athletic ability will far exceed the other kids they play against. Then there are the parents who have a child with average athletic ability, but the mere thought of being asked to play for an elite summer league basketball program is an honor. The coaches wow them with the mention of traveling across the United States, nice uniform, shoes, and a gym bag. Then they are told they will receive all of this for $1000 or more in some organizations. However, what they fail to realize is that the top players on these summer league basketball programs, they don’t have to pay. The coaches need them, therefore they are granted what the coaches call “scholarships”. So the question is; who is paying for those “scholarships”? The parents of the average athletic ability players foot the bill without even knowing it. Then again some of them do know it, but they could care less because their child is with an elite summer league basketball program.

As you see the NBA is becoming a mirror image of those Summer Youth Basketball Programs, so I fail to see why it is necessary to pay top-dollar at an NBA arena, when I can visit the local gym or park. If you look closely, the board executives aren’t courtside like they use to be, because you can rent And-1 mixed tapes and easily watch from the comfort of your home, at a minimal cost.

The opinion expressed in this my article is solely mine alone. (for now)

Mr. Lindsey H. McDaniel III