Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The N.B.A. is Smart

Kwame Brown, Tyson Chandler, and Eddy Curry were all drafted in the top five of the 2001 NBA draft. Shaun Livingston was picked fourth in the 2004 NBA draft. Martell Webster was the sixth overall pick in the 2005 NBA draft. All of these players have a lot in common. Every one of them skipped college to enter the NBA draft, and was drafted too high. All of these players were also very talented, and had a ton of potential which is the reason they was drafted so high. Their high potential led NBA General Managers to think that these players would save their struggling franchises. All of these players are still currently in the NBA and three (Kwame Brown, Tyson Chandler, Martell Webster) are having very solid careers. Even though they are having solid careers they are referred to as busts, because they did not save their NBA franchises.
#6 Tyson Chandler is now the starting center for the Charlotte Bobcats.

In 2006 the NBA introduced an age limit. This rule stated that a U.S. player had to be one year removed from high school and 19 years old by the end of the calendar year before they enter the draft. At first, everybody thought this rule was genius (including me) but since then a lot of people has found problems with it (including me). The age limit was put in to help the NBA as a whole and not to help these high school kids who skip college. Don’t forget that the NBA is a business. Like the examples above, GMs kept drafting these high school players way too high and throwing way too much money at them. This started becoming more and more of a trend and was getting out of hand. In 2004 and 2005 there were a total of 17 high school players that were drafted into the NBA. The GMs were still not learning with 11 of the 17 drafted in the first round. Not all of these players became busts (Dwight Howard the #1 pick in 2004 is a superstar) but most did not live up to the expectations. A first round pick gets a huge amount of guaranteed money. If the GMs were going to continually draft the high school players then why would they not come out?

The NBA wants you to believe that the age limit is for the players. There is a false assumption that most players jumping from high school to the NBA have failed. The NBA used this assumption to enforce the age limit and get people to believe that the age limit is just for the players. First off, the two biggest stars in the NBA (Kobe Bryant and Lebron James) jumped from high school. Granted, Lebron James is a freak of nature and we might not ever see a player so physically mature at such a young age. Also, Kobe Bryant did take a couple of years before he became successful in the NBA. These two are not the only ones though; Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O’Neal, Dwight Howard, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Tracey McGrady also skipped college. If a league’s biggest superstars are products of skipping college then how can you justify that players were not being successful in the NBA? There are failures in the NBA that jumped from high school, but even kids who go to college fail in the NBA. An outstanding college career does not mean you will be a star in the NBA just like an outstanding high school career does not either. Christian Laettner and JJ Redick are perfect examples of this. Both had outstanding college careers but not so much in the NBA. It does not matter if you skip college or go to college for four years, you will have growing pains in the NBA.

For every player who was not successful at skipping college, you can name two that were. I do not consider players like Kwame Brown and Tyson Chandler unsuccessful because of where they were drafted. They have proved that they are good enough to be in the NBA, they just were not franchise changing caliber players. I blame that mistake on the GMs for drafting them way too high. Both of these players would be called good picks if they were drafted somewhere in the late first round. That is the main problem; GMs were picking high school players too early. Out of the 44 that entered the Draft since 1995, only 6 were undrafted. Also, only 10 of the 38 that were drafted in the second round (http://ssbasketball.rivals.com/content.asp?SID=1132&CID=356192). It comes down to that GMs could not accurately determine how good these high school players would become. Putting this age limit in affect makes it a lot easier on the GMs, because it gives them another year to watch them against tougher competition in college. Basically GMs were throwing way too much money at these young players and this was the only way to stop it. By the age of 20 players were up for their second contract and it led to a lot of mistakes by the GMs. GMs were still hoping for that great potential to turn into reality so, they were still throwing big money at these young players. As you can see the GMs were not going to stop drafting them no matter how many times they saw such great potential turn into average careers.

We were able to see OJ Mayo in college basketball, but under illegal circumstances.
The NBA also wants you to think that the extra year that the age limit creates will help the players mature. A year helps a little bit but it creates more problems than it solves. Players that would have normally skipped college (OJ Mayo, Derrick Rose) have been involved in scandals. They did not want to be in college and schools cheated to get them. The University of Southern California was caught paying OJ Mayo money and the University of Memphis is going to have a whole season vacated because of Derrick Rose cheating on his SAT. The whole AAU culture is dirty enough but now that culture is carrying over to college. Before these players would skip college but the NBA is forcing them to spend their year at a place that they do not want to be. This age limit is also not helping players graduate, because players are making a joke of this one year academically. They do not have to attend one class after winter break to still be eligible to play through the first of April. Greg Oden and Kosta Koufos (both entered the draft after their first year of college) are very good examples of this because of the situation they left Ohio State University in. Ohio State ended up losing a scholarship because their GPA was below the NCAA minimum. Oden and Koufos both failed to complete third-quarter course work so of course, their GPA was not very good (http://www.usatoday.com/sports/college/mensbasketball/2009-06-05-freshmen-cover_N.htm). I am not saying Oden and Koufos were the only reason for them losing their scholarship, but they sure helped a lot in losing it. Therefore, this one year is not helping the players get a degree or stay out of trouble.

Statistics show that there is not a problem with high school players getting in trouble with the law while in the NBA either. In fact, they get in trouble less than players who attend college. In a study done by Michael McCann in 2005 out of the most recent 84 arrests only four of them had skipped college. Also, only four of them that were arrested had gone to college for one year. The group that made up the biggest portion of players out of the 84 arrests was the players who had gone to college for four years. The four year players made up 48 out of the 84 arrests (http://sports-law.blogspot.com/2005/07/nba-players-that-get-in-trouble-with_20.html). Again, this extra year is just giving the NBA another year to try to accurately evaluate their product and not for them to mature.

College basketball would have loved to see these two superstars staring during March Madness!
This age limit that the NBA put in also helps the NCAA (college basketball) a lot. Before, college basketball was losing all of its big time superstars to the NBA. Can you imagine if Kobe Bryant and Lebron James had played college basketball? The NCAA could have made millions of dollars off of them. Since the age limit, stars like Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley, OJ Mayo, Derrick Rose, and most recently John Wall are now in college. Do not forget that the age limit has only been in effect for four years now, and already it has been a huge help to the NCAA. You get to see these big stars carry their teams to March and into the tournament. These superstars now in college have made college basketball more popular than ever, when before it was taking a back seat. Now NCAA can make millions off of these players like they could have Lebron or Kobe. This is not fair to the players, and you can make an argument that they are getting cheated. These players cause attendance to skyrocket, put some of these teams on the radar that normally wouldn’t be, and they also put their school in the national spotlight by playing more games on TV. Michael Beasley, alone made so much money for the University of Kansas State, and for what? Yes, he received a scholarship but why does he need that when he could have been making millions in the NBA? Instead, under the age limit he has to make millions for Kansas State before he can make millions for his family and his self. This is not fair, and again proves that this age limit is not for the players.

The NBA is a smart business. This age limit has really helped their league and has made them look really good. People that do not look at in depth think that this age limit is helping the players. They think that the age limit is saving lives because a lot of times players get misguiding and do not make it in the NBA. That is incorrect, but even if it was correct that is life. Or that is what I was told. Life is not fair and you will fail quite a bit. Besides family and friends there is nobody out there worried about if I fail or not. I am over 18; I am on my own. That is how it is supposed to be, right? They are adults. Do not get it confused though; nobody is worried about these high school players either. The NBA wants the NBA to succeed, they do not care about these high school players. Overall, the age limit is better for the business of the NBA and that is why it is in effect. I have no problem with that, because isn’t that what a business is supposed to do? Do what is best for your business. I just do not want the NBA to get too much credit.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Is Respect Too Much To Ask For?

Brett Favre was once again starring on a Sunday afternoon in November at Lambeau Field. All of his balls had that famous Favre zip to them that we have all came to admire over the years. He was marching his offense down the field time after time, scoring touchdown after touchdown. His offense could not be stopped, coming only two points shy of 40. Favre was the main story on Sportscenter for his big play in a big game. On this day he had thrown for over 200 yards, four touchdowns, and most importantly zero interceptions while beating a division rival. Favre had a record tying performance, but that seemed to happen about every Sunday at this point in his career. He had tied the great Dan Marino for the most four touchdown pass games in NFL history with 21. He would spend the moments after the game downplaying the victory by explaining that it was still early in the season. Nothing had changed for the last 17 seasons; this is the same thing that happened every year. Well, I guess something had changed; Favre was not wearing green (the season before he still wore green by playing with the New York Jets). In fact, Favre was playing the green at the green. Yes, by the green, I mean the Green Bay Packers. If you have been alive during the last five months then you know that Brett Favre now plays for the Minnesota Vikings. This was his first time on Lambeau Field as a visiting player. This just did not seem right.

Brett Favre’s journey to get to this point has caused a lot of controversy, and changed a lot of opinions about him. He has always been a love or hate kind of guy, but with the recent happenings it is now to the extreme. There is nobody in the middle on the Brett Favre topic. Either you LOVE him or you HATE him. He has even split up a Packer fan base that is known to be one of the best fan bases in the NFL with its signature Lambeau Leap. A lot of turmoil has gone on since Brett’s departure, including fans wanting Ted Thompson (the GM that is blamed for Brett Favre no longer being a Packer) fired. Favre spent last season playing with the New York Jets, but now that he plays for the Vikings things have understandably gotten uglier. After another off-season of retiring, but then later deciding to come back has caused even more hate against Favre. He has been labeled selfish and a traitor by many. Regular football fans are tired of hearing about his every move, while Packer fans are now furious about him playing in the same division. Favre is now a rival to them, and I think even they understand that that is not a good thing for the Packers’ playoff hopes.

Brett Favre was a Packer at heart. His first start came in the fourth game of the 1992-1993 season and he was their quarterback until 2008. With free agency, Favre could have looked for more money elsewhere but he never did. It is easy to see why the fans fell in love with him; he was their quarterback for 16 seasons! Now days that just does not happen often because of all the money hungry players that are out there. As soon as their contracts are up, they are trying to go where the most money is. I cannot blame them kind of players, but it makes it easy to appreciate somebody like Favre for staying with a team through the thick and thin. The Packers’ GM, Ted Thompson evidently did not see it the way I did. With a very emotional press conference, Brett Favre retired following the 2007-2008 season. He had just come off a Pro Bowl season that ended in a very tough playoff loss. Favre still had the ability but some were wondering if his age had finally caught up to him. At the time he was 38 years old, so imagine how his body felt right after the season. As time went on, his body started to feel better and he started to show interest of coming out of retirement. Ted Thompson told him that if he came back there would be a quarterback competition between the old backup (Aaron Rogers) and him. This is a slap in Brett Favre’s face because of everything he had gone through in a Green Bay Packer uniform. The fans’ were behind Favre but the Packers ending up trading him to the New York Jets for a conditional fourth round draft pick. Good job Ted Thompson! Way to go through thick and then with your quarterback! Brett Favre could have taught Thompson a few things about loyalty.

Brett Favre makes it easy for all of us fans relate to him in a remarkable way. Look at him, he looks like just a regular guy standing at 6”2’ and weighing 222 pounds. Usually professional athletes of his caliber have a superhuman look to him that we as fans cannot relate to. You see Brett Favre at the press conference with gray hair and a non athletic look, and then you see him out on the field making plays that those other superhuman humans make. He also has a very relatable private life for most of us. You never seen him with anything flashy on; it is always the same ole Wranglers. Outside of football, he loves working on his farm and mowing his yard. Those are very regular things that people of his stature usually do not do. These are just the things that he loves doing. In the summer, a lot of times he works out with the local high school team. You will not find many NFL players that workout with high school kids on a regular basis, but Favre enjoys it. This gives the kids’ a wonderful experience that they will remember for the rest of their life, and gets Favre ready for the season upcoming season.

Brett Favre is the definition of being a hard worker and durable. He started every Packer game from September 27, 1992 until January 20, 2008. His streak of consecutive starts is still going and was at 277 (298 including playoffs) as of week 8 of the 2009 NFL season. This is a remarkable streak and is of course, the most consecutive starts in NFL history at any position. This streak has earned him the nickname “Iron Man.” To have a streak like this, you have to be lucky but you also have to be tough. To never miss a start (ever since 1992 when he was named the starter) in your whole career in a contact sport like football is astonishing. He has played through a broken thumb on his throwing hand (Favre says what the toughest to play through), a sprained ankle, a separated shoulder, and the death of his father the day before his game to name a few. This shows extraordinary physical and mental toughness along with unbelievable determination. His passion for the game is what mad all of it possible. He knew that his father would of wanted him out there, so Favre went out on Monday Night Football and put on a performance that will always be remembered. Things like this is what makes Favre seem human to us. He has normal problems and is not a “pretty boy” like some of the players. Favre is very stubborn and simply will not take no for an answer. He has a workman like attitude about his job while a lot of his teammates and opponents take their job for granted. Favre realizes that they are lucky to be playing the game they love. Other players would never play through those kinds of injuries; check the injury list this Sunday and you will see plenty of players missing games with lesser injuries than what Favre has played through.

Brett Favre is now 40 years old and is doing things that a 40 year old is not supposed to be able to do. He is the oldest player in the NFL but you would never know it by his performance. His team has 7 wins and 1 loss and is currently leading the NFC North Division. At 40 years old he still has that remarkable arm strength, which is one of the things that sets him apart from the other quarterbacks in the league. How can you blame him for coming out of retirement? If an NFL team would still pay you over 10 million a season, would you retire? Nobody in their right mind could walk away from that kind of money if they still had Favre’s ability. Favre is everything that is right about the NFL. He is a hard working, loyal, honest, and a relatable football player that plays with through heart. Look through the rosters, those kind are not easy to find. For many of us, Favre gives us hope that maybe the impossible is possible. If a 40 year old man can play a game at a high level that is intended for 25 year old boys, then what is impossible? If you hate him I realize that you will never love him, but you cannot deny the fact that the man deserves your respect.