There was a time when the NBA Draft was must see TV for even the casual fan. In fact, this writer and fan probably went 20 years without missing a single one. And now it has reached a point where these eyes will probably not watch another one for a couple of reasons.
First of all, how do you expect a die hard fan to actually watch a draft when your first player chosen is Anthony Bennett? Don’t try and convince anyone with more than 10 years of experience a player from the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels is the best player in college basketball if his name isn’t Grand Ma-Ma.
Second, how does the NBA expect any new fan get behind their product when no one knows who the heck any of these young players are? Cody Zeller was the first player’s name most folks recognized beyond Nerlens Noel. The only reason folks knew Noel is because of his hair and his flipping name is Nerlens.
Usually my rants are all about progress and love of the evolution of the game. But there is just something that stinks about what hoops have become in both the collegiate and professional levels. And you can thank David Stern for destroying the game.
For all of you who think LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant are the greatest players ever, you need to pull out a VCR and rewind some old school college tapes of Hall of Famers that put the NBA where it is today.
The college game has a lot of history and tradition, but it all started with the UCLA Bruins run, a little rivalry between Larry Bird and Magic Johnson and the shot that made Michael Jordan a star. That span of 15 years led to some absolutely epic March Madness runs, not to mention, the golden age of the NBA in the 1980s and early ’90s.
There was something to be said about a student-athlete staying all four years and the drama that ensued to end his college career and then watching them enter the next level ready to contribute. Not to mention, the right of passage for them to be able to make it to the NBA Title. It was must see reality TV before any of us knew what reality TV was.
But in their greed, the late ’90s brought a heap of trouble with players that ruined both the amateur product as well as the professional one. Remember J.R. Rider and Latrell Sprewell, who were the face of all things basketball? Days every fan wants to forget. And days you can blame on Stern and the NCAA for being greedy.
And with the end of Tim Duncan and similar great college and NBA players on the horizon, who will be the next star to carry the torch? It sure as heck isn’t anyone that was drafted on Thursday night. And it sure as heck isn’t anyone who has left college after one year.
So on behalf of all basketball fans out there, please, NCAA do something to keep players around at least three years like you do in college football. One of the biggest reasons the NFL is where it is today is because of the development of the players in the college game. Stern is heading out to greener pastures so let’s make sure this gets done like tomorrow.
M Shannon Smallwood is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the US Basketball Writers Association.
Follow him @woodysmalls.