LaVar Ball Actually Has a Good Idea

Listen, I never thought I’d take time out of my life to write something that mentions LaVar Ball. Frankly, his coverage is getting beat to death and I’m not really too interested in discussing him anymore. But this isn’t about LaVar Ball, this is about an idea that revolves around a greater issue in the basketball world today and one that I believe could actually have a role in professional basketball development. It just so happens to be you-know-who’s idea.

Recently, LaVar Ball’s company, “Big Baller Brand”, has announced that they plan to launch the Junior Basketball Association (JBA) this summer as an alternative to NCAA college basketball for top of the line prospects. This league is unique because it’s a professional one, making it the first of its kind tailored specifically for players freshly graduated from highschool.

This announcement comes shortly after LaVar decided to pull his sons from their current school teams and instead place them on a roster with a professional club in Lithuania. LiAngelo (19) was set to play his freshman year at UCLA, but had yet to play in his first regular season game before LaVar pulled him. While LaMelo (16) was in the midst of being homeschooled during his Grade 11 year after LaVar took him out of school in Chino Hills, California over the summer.

Obviously, a decision like that comes with some backlash (as if people actually care how their family decides to live their lives), because it would appear to many that LaVar is standing in the way of his sons gaining an education while making what many would consider a short-sighted decision. But that whole drama is beside the point, this is about the JBA. This announcement has really made me think to myself, is this actually a good idea? Clearly, it’s a polarizing topic:

 

But honestly, I think it is a good idea. Where I’m coming from when I consider the presence of a league like the Junior Basketball Association revolves around the thought that the NCAA is as crooked and flawed as an athletic organization can get. The current trend of “one and done’s” where top prospects play one season of college ball and then bolt to the NBA draft has made a mockery of the entire educational process. The athletes aren’t there for the education, they’re there because it’s a step you need to take to become a pro – everyone knows it. The NCAA has simply become a pit-stop on the road to the show, and the status quo has remained in place in large part because there’s no real alternative for North American prospects.

The NCAA has monopolized the basketball “feeder system” role and is making billions because of it. All the while, the players that pass through are receiving an incomplete education in return. The “pay the players” in the NCAA debate has raged on for years without any change, and the Junior Basketball Association appears to have cut to the chase and presented an intriguing alternative as a professional stream that removes the education portion that has seemingly evolved into a mere formality.

The league plans to have 10 teams, about 80 players and is to be based out of NBA arenas in Atlanta, Brooklyn, Dallas and Los Angeles. Logistically, it’s clear there is a lot that needs to be put into a project like this, but LaVar Ball obviously has confidence in the league (as he does in anything he does/says). He recently told ESPN that, “Getting these players is going to be easy. 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.” Now is this the league that could potentially put pressure on the NCAA’s exploitative system? I’d be all for that.  

There were a couple points from a press release the JBA tweeted that stuck out to me most:

“With the introduction of the JBA, allowing the NCAA to regulate and control the eligibility status of top basketball prospects will no longer be an issue.”

“There is no need to partake in an institution that claims its purpose is not to help prepare you for your professional career.”

These are foundation altering concepts regarding the pathway to the NBA, and this puts power back into the hands of those who deserve it: the athletes. It’s ludicrous that college is clearly acknowledged as preparation for a professional career for an average student, but not so for a high-level basketball player. Why can a computer science student use their talents to make money on the side developing websites while enrolled in school, but a basketball player can’t generate income from an autograph session? These inequities would be erased if an athlete were to choose the JBA. That’s why I back this move by the Big Baller Brand as this provides options for an athlete, and I’m curious to see if this league can actually pick up some momentum. Either way, hopefully, its presence at the very least can lead to some change in how strict the NCAA is regarding athletes’ “amateur” status while in school.

There’s no reason the JBA shouldn’t be a thing as its purpose is certainly warranted. I know it may be hard to support something sprouted from the mind of LaVar Ball, but let’s just try to remove that factor from our minds. A professional junior basketball league… why not?

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