Lavar Ball Creates For Profit Pro-Basketball League For High School Players, Threat To HBCU Basketball?

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Say what you want about Lavar Ball but he has a plan. He’s seemed to have a plan for his sons and his life for years that’s now finally starting to take it’s form. Getting Lonzo Ball in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers was a part of his plan. The hoopla over the Big Baller Brand shoes were all a part of his plan. His media antics were a part of his plan and the reactions that he garnered where just pieces that fell in place, although I’m sure he didn’t expect to draw the attention of Donald Trump. Now, he’s in the next phase of his plan: challenging the NCAA. Normally, going up against the NCAA is a losing effort. However, Ball’s plan might be crazy enough to work.

Lavar Ball announced earlier today that he’s creating a league for nationally ranked high school basketball players who have graduated from high school but don’t want to go to college. He calls the league the JBA or “Junior Basketball Association”, funded by the Big Baller Brand. “Getting these players is going to be easy,” Ball told a reporter for ESPN. “This is giving guys a chance to get a jump start on their career, to be seen by pro scouts, and we’re going to pay them because someone has to pay these kids.”

Ball says that the creation of this league was motivated by comments that NCAA president Mark Emmert in which he said, “Is this a part of someone being part of you university as a student-athlete or is it about using college athletics to prepare yourself to be a pro? If it’s the latter, you shouldn’t be there in the first place.”

Ball responded, “”He was right. Those kids who are one-and-done, they shouldn’t be there with the NCAA trying to hold them hostage, not allowing them to keep the jersey they wear while selling replicas of them in stores. So our guy isn’t going to go to Florida State for a year. He’s going to come to our league.”

I’m a huge supporter of Lavar Ball and what he stands for. I’m actually a fan of some of his antics, although I agree that he does tend to go overboard. I do think that this is a phenomenal idea, as the NCAA does exploit their players without any benefit to them outside of the prospect of playing for a pro team. However, where does HBCU basketball stand in this equation? Someone has to ask the question.

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Many HBCU’s have a hard time recruiting top-tier basketball talent out of high school due to bigger Predominately White Institutions offering more lucrative benefits and the eyes of NBA scouts. Now, HBCU athletic departments have to plausibly contend with the Junior Basketball Association. Although this is an idea that hasn’t been proven yet, what if it works? Ball has the platform to sway parents and student athletes alike to join his league. Some college players might be compelled to drop out of their respective institutions and chase the prospectus of money for their basketball talents.

Ball’s announcement brings back to the forefront the key issue that the NCAA has faced for years: payment of student athletes for their services rendered. I ran across an article from HBCU Buzz that linked to an article written on VICE about an HBCU Pay-For-Play league. Reading the plan, it actually made sense. The 20+ page plan on creating this league was detailed and well-thought out. It’s farfetched that HBCU’s would just withdraw from the NCAA though. HBCU’s by-in-large haven’t made a wave in the NCAA scene like we have in football. We don’t have numerous successful HBCU alumni that went on to play in the NBA or other professional leagues that we can call as our claim to fame. Feasibly, the NCAA could operate without us. I mean, they wouldn’t lose any money.

The Junior Basketball Association presents a different business idea, as it doesn’t require anything but declaring that the players play with that league. They probably will have to sign documentation granting them exclusivity but they’ll be paid for their talents. What if Ball is able to find a television deal for this league? Fox Sports 1 gave Ice Cube television distribution for the Big 3 league. Who’s to say Ball’s league couldn’t get this same deal. That makes the prospect of this league succeeding even more interesting and dangerous for NCAA basketball. And, if it’s dangerous for the NCAA it’s deadly for HBCU’s.

I’m interested in how this plays out and how the NCAA handles this. This might be the move that forces their hand and makes them pay their players. Who knows? Only time will tell!

References

  1. Littal, Robert. “LaVar Ball Starting League for High School Players Who Don’t Want to Go to College | BSO.” BlackSportsOnline, 20 Dec. 2017, blacksportsonline.com/home/2017/12/lavar-ball-plans-to-create-a-pro-basketball-league-for-hs-players-who-dont-want-to-be-exploited-by-ncaa-plans-to-pay-the-kids-prep-them-for-nba-overseas-careers/.
  2. Rovell, Darren. “LaVar Ball plans to start league for high school graduates.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures, 20 Dec. 2017, www.espn.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/21827823/lavar-ball-wants-start-league-high-school-graduates.
  3. “NCAA president had the most ridiculous take on the LaVar Ball-UCLA situation.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 6 Dec. 2017, ftw.usatoday.com/2017/12/mark-emmert-ncaa-president-lavar-liangelo-ball-ucla-one-and-done-nba-college-basketball.
  4. Hruby, Patrick. “The Plot to Disrupt the NCAA with a Pay-for-Play HBCU Basketball League.” Sports, 20 June 2017, sports.vice.com/en_ca/article/59zejz/the-plot-to-disrupt-the-ncaa-with-a-pay-for-play-hbcu-basketball-league.
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