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The NCAA messed up. And the NBA is taking advantage. After the NCAA has dragged its feet for years debating whether or not college athletes should earn money off of their name, likeness, and image, the NBA stepped in this week by signing one of the top high school basketball prospects to a high-dollar contract to play in the G League

The NBA’s decision means many of the best high school players who have been one and done in the NCAA, as well as those who have started heading overseas, will now have an opportunity to stay at home and be groomed for the NBA while making big bucks in the process.

NCAA changes stance on players earning money

In October 2019, the NCAA announced it was starting the process of allowing student-athletes to profit off of their name, image, and likeness. This announcement was a sudden shift from the NCAA’s long-held stance and came a month after California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill that would allow players to sign lucrative endorsement deals and hire agents starting in 2023.

According to the NCAA’s new plan, college athletes will be compensated for the use of their name, image, and likeness. The NCAA’s three divisions must still craft their own rules and detail the specifics. The NCAA said it would gather feedback through April 2020 and asked each division to create any new rules beginning immediately, but no later than January 2021.

While there is a deadline of January 2021 for creation of the rules, there’s no set timetable as to when the plans could actually be implemented. It could be sooner than the California model in 2023, but at the very least, it’s still years away. 

The NBA signs top prospect for top dollar

This week the NBA and its development body, the G League, made a major statement signing Jalen Green, who many consider to be the top prospect in the 2020 class, to a one-year deal worth $500,000, according to sources. Green could potentially earn more than $1 million with endorsement deals. 

Green is the first player that will be part of the G League’s select program, and will be joined by Isaiah Todd, who de-committed from Michigan last week and had been considering a move to play overseas.

“I believe it was the best thing for my game and for my career to better myself for the NBA. It was very important to be prepared because the NBA is my lifelong dream. This option is the best way to go, being in the NBA’s backyard and to learn from pros and learn from NBA coaches and trainers. It’s about being prepared for the NBA.”

Isaiah Todd

The two players are the first to sign with the league, but many NBA insiders believe this could open the floodgates and there could be others to follow in the days and weeks ahead.

What does the future look like for college basketball?

This latest move by the NBA signing top prospects not only prevents top-level talent from heading overseas, it will also eliminate more of the one-and-done players in the NCAA like Zion Williamson, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Durant.

One prominent agent told Yahoo Sports, the NBA’s move is effectively telling the NCAA it missed out on its chance to compensate these players and now it’s too late.

“I think the NBA is doing it as a big middle finger to the NCAA,” the agent said. “This is how it’s going to be, we’re going to take control of the development of top players.”

NBA top prospects
Zion Williamson | Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

While the change might not affect most college basketball programs, it will undoubtedly affect top-tier teams like Duke and Kentucky, who have made it a staple of their programs recruiting the best players knowing full well they’ll only play for one season before turning pro.

The NBA’s decision will have a domino effect. Now the Dukes and Kentuckys of the world will be battling all the other schools for those players who aren’t good enough for the select G League team. In the end, college basketball fans are the losers as those top players like Williamson and Durant will never don a college uniform and play in the NCAA Tournament, depriving everyone a chance of seeing them play, even if it’s just for one season. 


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