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What Happened to the True Center?

28 Mar

basketball - shaquille o'neal03

Just 15-20 years ago, in order to win a championship on any level, you needed a dominant center. In fact, the super-sized big man dominated the NBA from its inception in the 1940′s with George Mikan. Bill Russell reigned in basketball royalty with the Boston Celtics from the late 1950′s through the 60′s. He battled super human 7-footer, Wilt Chamberlain, who then nearly broke every NBA record in the 70′s. That torch of dominance passed on to Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabbar), who went on to become the most prolific scorer in NBA history and ushered in the Golden Age of NBA centers, with Artis Gilmore, Nate Thurmond, Wes Unseld, Bob McAdoo, Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing, and David Robinson in the 1970′s and 1980′s. These centers gave way to Dikembe Mutumbo, Alonzo Mourning, and Shaquille O’Neal in the 90′s, but the next great center hasn’t arrived. With Mourning and Mutumbo in retirement, the lone true center in the league is Shaq and this once great center has suddenly become increasingly lumbering and sadly pedestrian. The rising athleticism of the league, better guard play, and the rise of more versatile big men has almost forced the true center into extinction.

The impact of the center position is far more important than just interior scoring. Present day guards are very capable of scoring in the paint. Tony Parker, a lightning quick point guard with a variety of floaters, has been one of the best interior scorers in the league during his career. Another explosive guard, Kevin Johnson scored well in the paint, but did not advance deeply into the playoffs until the team acquired a high scoring big man, Charles Barkley, a power forward. The big man scores differently than his smaller counterparts. Instead of blowing by players and maneuvering around them, a center powers through or flies over them. By scoring more physical baskets, he imposes his will on the opposition. After Shaq dunked on a player two times when he was in his prime, the player began to concede a few more baskets rather than jump in futility. But, the value of a center is not limited to just scoring. His real value is in rebounding and blocked shots, which ultimately means more possessions for his team.


One of the major reasons for the demise of the center position is the overall athleticism of the NBA. Players now, far exceed the size and natural ability of their predecessors. The shot blockers/rebounders of the seventies, were immobile trees that garnered stats solely on positioning and sheer length. Tree Rollins, Mark Eaton, and Manute Bol all capitalized from using this technique. They all ruled the paint during the 80′s in the era of the giants. All stood 7’2 or taller, but the athleticism of the league has rendered those stagnant players useless. In the seventies the average size of a point guard was between 5’9″ and 6’1″; the current size is 6’1″ and 6’3″. Shooting guards which are already 4-5 inches taller than point guards, have also gained an additional 2-3 inches in height. That coupled with 40 inch vertical leaps, made the taller centers less imposing. Athletic guards regularly challenged these stationary behemoths in the 90′s and they were extinct soon after. The center position remained though, because a few centers evolved athletically too, like Shaq, Olajuwon, and Robinson.

One of the true threats to big men is the high scoring guard. Michael Jordan, possibly the best player in NBA history, won 6 titles without a great center, or even a good big man. He and Scottie Pippen formed one of the most formidable and super athletic tandems in NBA history. They set the template for modern teams.  Whereas the big centers were extremely effective interior scorers, they weren’t compelling entertainers because they scored slowly and easily near the basket. Jordan added a real flair and dynamism to the NBA. He could score anywhere on the court from the 3 pt. line to right over the big at the rim. Plus, he added stellar man-to-man defense. He blocked a few shots and averaged well over 2 steals per game, which led to spectacular open court dunks. Pippen, though not as great a pure scorer as Jordan, averaged 20 pts., a block, and well over 2 steals per game as NBA swingman. Contrary to the popular belief that Michael Jordan is the best athlete that ever played, Pippen was actually a better athlete than Jordan. Sacrilegious to the casual basketball fan? Yes, but also true. He was bigger, stronger, and quicker laterally. Pippen could guard the point guard through power forward position and always guarded the best player from the opposing team. The duo of Jordan and Pippen was unstoppable from 1991-1998, when they won 6 titles in 8 years. Jordan retired in 1993 and returned in 1995. They set the precedent for modern teams without bigs like Golden State, Phoenix, and Oklahoma. They proved that teams could win despite having no solid play from a big man.

The last major threat to the relevance of the true center is specifically the emergence of the versatile big man. Ironically, some of the last great centers are responsible for the lost of the true centers. Hakeem Olajuwon, one of the NBA’s greatest players, was one of the most versatile big men in league history. He could score from the free throw line extended. He could drive past bigger defenders and score with his back to the basket against smaller ones. His skill set surpassed all of his contemporaries, even the great ones like David Robinson and Shaquille O’Neal. Larger, sedimentary centers languished to defend him, because he could face up and was lightning quick with explosive leaping ability. And, he finished 1st in league history in blocks and 8th in league history in steals. Since Olajuwon and Robinson entered and dominated the league, big men have emulated their ability to score out on the floor and dominate different statistical categories. Big men tend to face the rim more instead of playing in the post.

The position of the true center is disappearing quickly. It is under siege because of the rising versatility of the big men, the improving play of guards, and the sum of great athletes entering the league. The history of the league has been shaped by giant men that dominated the painted area, but that is changing rapidly. And unless the NBA changes to protect them, they will go extinct.

10 Reasons College Sports Are Better Than the Pros

25 Mar

football - 2006 rose bowl04

Written By William Bixby

1. There are fewer games – Fewer games means fans get a better product on the floor or field. Because there are less games at the university level, college kids get more practices, better game planning, and more energy for games. Athletes are better prepared for their opponents, so there are also better chances for big upsets regardless of the overall talent of the team. Having less games produces a better product for the NCAA.

 

2. Every game counts – Having fewer games also has another unexpected advantage. It makes every game relevant. A 12 game season in college football promises that the team that challenges for the national championship knows how to win football games. The 16 game professional version allows key players to become injured and causes fatigue by the end of the season. An 82 game NBA season is grueling for even the best athletes. Rookies and second year players hit the wall at mid-season. The 30 game season for college basketball builds to climax steadily from non-conference games, through conference game rivalries, to the NCAA tournament. Teams have to fit a specific formula just for consideration: Either win your conference tournament or have 20 wins and key wins against ranked opponents. That means that every game is important.

3. Alcohol + young people = good times – College is one of the only places where you have fans like the Cameron Crazies, the Seminole chant, and shirtless yokels yelling non-stop for hours on end. Fans of professional sports are older, more established and less likely to act crazy for their team (except for Raider fans).

 

4. Bands – College is the last place where sports teams have their own team bands equipped with their school’s fight song. There is nothing like watching  your team score and hearing your school’s fight song. Graduates return for games and sing them after wins. Some fight songs are built into our sports culture like the fight songs of Notre Dame, Ohio State, USC, and Texas.

 

5. Traveling fans – College is the only time in life when people have enough time and resources to follow their favorite sports team. If the game is big enough, then college kids pile into cars and take a road trip to it. There are some rivalries where there are an equal amount of fans for both teams regardless of home court advantage.

 

6. Dick Vitale – Dick Vitale is a sports treasure. His name is synonymous with college basketball, and he has developed and trademarked his own language in describing the sport. Basketball fans know what a diaper dandy is, what the all-Windex team means, and who the best players in the country are because of him.

 

7. Coaching matters – There is no other place where coaching matters more than in college. You can see the imprint of coaching style on games. Certain coaches play defensive ball. Bo Ryan of Wisconsin tries to grind games out with a stout zone. John Calipari of Kentucky and Jim Boheim of Syracuse use the same 2-3 zone to create turnovers and push tempo.

8. Number 1 plays Number 2 – The best two teams in the nation face each other in college football every year. And though people question the BCS system, the flaws in it assure that the national champion faces a team of its caliber each year. In the NFL, teams face rivals from their division in the postseason, however the best teams seldom face each other in the championship game. The best games in the playoffs are usually in the Wild Card rounds, because good teams seldom enter the playoffs with the same record. College football allows for games like the 2006 USC-Texas Rose Bowl game where the consensus number one team and the consensus number team for the entire season faced each other in the last game of the year.

 

9. The Tournament – There is no competition in the land that is better than the March Madness. 65 teams enter the same tournament and only one leaves a champion. The NCAA tournament combines all the great story lines of the cinema and matches them with all the rivalries in basketball. David meets Goliath in the tourney. Regional and conference rivalries meet in latter rounds, and teams from the same state who never play during the regular season face each other on neutral courts. Guessing who will win any game is impossible because almost every team that enters the tournament has won 20+ game in this season, won a conference tournament to get an at large berth, or have been ranked highly for most of the college basketball season. Every team that enters the tournament is loaded with talent or is extremely disciplined, and the best teams are both.

 

10. The sports are pure – Yes, there are players that only go to college to get to the pros, but the majority of players are there because they love the game. Most of the players are excited to play sports at one of the biggest stages. The players have not started selfishly looking at stats to bolster their next paycheck, because they are playing to prove themselves. College sports show the joy of victory and the agony of defeat more clearly than other sport, and that is why college sports trump professional athletics every time.

10 Best Wide Receivers in NFL History

11 Mar

football - tim brown

10. Calvin Johnson – First, let me give all due respect to all the receivers of the past half century that became before Megatron, like Steve Largent, Andre Reed, and Torry Holt. His contemporaries are also great and may reach this list before their careers are done, specifically guys like Andre Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, and Steve Smith of the Panthers. Each of these players have outstanding numbers and are great in their own right, however no one in the history of professional football has done anything that can be compared to what Calvin Johnson has done in his first six seasons save one player. Through six seasons Calvin has broken quite a few National Football League records, including the hallowed most receiving yardage record in a single season record held by the NFL’s most highly regarded wide out. Johnson makes this list through his explosiveness and dynamic play on the field despite his relatively small sample size of work. He commands double teams on every play, specifically in the red zone. One on one coverage in the red zone is giving the Detroit Lions six points with Calvin Johnson. In fact, when he is in man to man coverage, the Lions automatically call off the play that they are running and throw the ball to him on a hot read. He encompasses all the attributes that a wide receiver can possess. Megatron is huge at 6’5″ with a long wingspan, he is faster and quicker than any cornerback that guards him, he is is explosive off the ground and from point A to point B, and he high points the football in the air. He makes receptions on slants in or out, on deep or shallow posts, on fly routes and fades, and on crossing routes. Calvin Johnson could become the greatest wide receiver to ever play the game if he stays healthy.

9. Marvin Harrison – Marvin Harrison may be the most underrated player on this list. He was undersized and did not necessarily have blazing speed. However, Harrison used unparalleled quickness and precise route running to create separation and to make catches. Harrison also used his sense of self-preservation to create longevity in his career. He got down after catches in traffic and lived to fight another day, but when he was able to get away from a defender he capitalized. The phrases that best described what Marvin Harrison has meant to football is “consistent” and “consummate professional” . Marvin Harrison produced the same numbers, over 1,100 yards receiving and 10+ touchdowns, for eight consecutive years with the Indianapolis Colts.

8. Michael Irvin – This Dallas Cowboy defined toughness and physical play from the wide receiver position. Irvin was one of the original big, physical wide outs, and he ushered in the crop of players who were considered “possession” receivers like Cris Carter, Muhsin Muhammad, and Hines Ward. People thought that Irvin was not especially fast, but he relied on stamina to make him more threatening than other faster receivers. Irvin ran the same 40 time regardless of the quarter. He was just as fast in the fourth quarter as he was in the first quarter. Plus, Irvin used his body like a weapon. He would bump, push, and box out smaller corners to get to the football. When the football was in the air in Irvin’s vicinity, he always seemed to come down with it.

7. Hines Ward – Hines Ward may have been the most physical football player that ever played a skills position. His career was not as decorated as some of his peers’ careers, but his ability to get airborne and catch the ball in traffic or the open field made him a Hall of Fame player despite not having a huge body of work for coaches to consider. Ward bullied defenses. He changed directions recklessly, but no one could tackle him in space. In fact, few people could tackle Hines Ward when he found himself in the heart of NFL defenses. He took as much pride in blocking for a touchdown as he did scoring one himself. Ward relished contact when blocking and when running routes. Though he seldom had years catching the football that rivaled the all-time greats in yardage, Ward managed six 1,000 yard years, and always seemed to make the big catches that helped his Steelers win big games. His legacy is being a football player before being a wide receiver, and that is the best compliment that anyone could give him.

6. Cris Carter – His hands made him a Hall of Fame receiver. Cris Carter is high on the lists of receptions, receiving touchdowns, and receiving yardage because he caught everything that was thrown to him. He joined with Randy Moss to make one of the most devastating receiving combinations that ever existed. Moss was the speed guy and Carter was the possession receiver. Carter did his work in traffic. He was a big man, and he out-jumped and posted corners so that he could get to the ball with little resistance. He now stands fourth all-time in receptions and receiving touchdowns, eighth in total touchdowns, and ninth in total receiving yards. Carter is a eight time Pro Bowler who was also the consummate professional. He is credited with giving Randy Moss his work ethic and teaching him some of the finer points of receiving.

5. Isaac Bruce – “The Greatest Show on Turf” was led by this man. Granted, Kurt Warner was the man behind the ball and he was one of the most accurate passers in NFL history (if not the most accurate), but Isaac Bruce pushed the machine. He was originally the speed receiver for his St. Louis Rams, but he also became a great possession receiver too. Bruce was best when lined out wide, but he excelled in the slot too. His best routes were fly routes and deep posts, but he made good on slants when his number was called. Bruce had good hands and ran clean routes. He was the original number one wide receiver for the most prolific offense in NFL history. He had eight 1,000 yard seasons including one where he finished with 1,781 receiving yards which challenged the record for most receiving yards in a single season at the time.

4. Tim Brown – Until Moss and T.O. came along, there was only one man who could compete with the best wide receiver in NFL history, and that was Tim Brown. He retired as number two on every list that quantifies the worth of a wide receiver. Tim Brown was undersized, but he was fast and he caught everything that was thrown his way. Brown was a game changer. He was so explosive that the Raiders used him in kick returns and punt returns too. He could score from anywhere on the field. He was equally as deadly in the slot as he was on the outside. He ran all the routes and caught the ball in space and in traffic. If Brown was any bigger, he may have surpassed at least two of the three receivers that are ahead of him on this list. He had nine consecutive seasons where he reached 1,000 receiving yards and made nine Pro Bowls in his career without ever having a great quarterback. Even today, Tim Brown is no lower than fifth on any of the significant receiving lists.

3. Randy Moss – Moss is one of the most controversial characters in NFL history, but also one of the most talented. He embodies everything that a number one receiver should be. He is tall, fast, disciplined on the field, and has great hands. He is the finesse version of Calvin Johnson. In his prime, Moss ran go routes almost exclusively and he was still effective because he was bigger and faster than any cornerbacks that were assigned to him. Moss flew past defenses regularly and posted some of the most dynamic numbers in receiving that ever came. He scored 23 touchdowns in his best season, a record for wide receivers, and he dominated against every opponent. Moss has ten seasons where he ran for 1,000 or more yards, nine seasons where he scored ten or more touchdowns, and four season where he scored 15 or more touchdowns. Fantasy football geeks may place him higher on this list and he could easily be the second best wide receiver of all-time, but he lands in third place on too many receiving lists to be placed any higher.

2. Terrell Owens – Surprisingly, Terrell Owens may actually be more polarizing a character than even Randy Moss. And, choosing which of the two players is better is completely debatable. Whereas Moss represented the perfect number one receiver, Owens actually personified the ultimate number two wide receiver. Where Moss is fast, T.O. is powerful. Where Moss is lengthy, Owens is quick to the ball. They competed in two completely different ways, but were both extremely effective. Owens and Moss stand in the second or third slots for every significant receiving record. And though T.O. technically played as much slot receiver as he did number one receiver, he was always the best receiver on the field. He is second all-time in receiving yards, third in touchdown receptions, and tenth in receiving yards per game. Moss ranks third, second, and sixteenth respectively. Terrell Owens played most of his career with mediocre quarterbacks. When he was coupled with a marginal Hall of Fame quarterback in Donovan McNabb, he went to the Super Bowl, and gave one of the gutsiest performances in Super Bowl history. Owens caught 8 passes for 122 yards on a broken ankle and made every big catch to keep the Eagles in contention for a Super Bowl win. Regardless of anyone’s opinion of Terrell Owens, he delivered on the field.

1. Jerry Rice – Jerry Rice is not only the best wide receiver in the history of the league, he is also possibly the best football player that ever played the game. Rice is the prototype for what a number one wide receiver should be. He preferred to run routes on the outside and outmatched players physically by outrunning them and out jumping them, but he never shied away from running routes across the middle. In fact, when opponents double-teamed him on outside routes, Rice took quick slant routes for large gains and opened up defenses from the inside of the field. He was not afraid of contact, but still he rarely took big hits because he was so elusive in space. Jerry Rice sits proudly at the top of the all-time receiving yards with almost 7,000 separating him from his closest competitor. He has fourteen 1,000 yard seasons, is number one in a plethora statistics including, but not limited to receiving yards, receiving touchdowns, overall touchdowns, yards from scrimmage, and receptions. Rice ran all the routes and excelled in precise route running, but could also read defenses and improvise. Jerry Rice was not just the best wide receiver that ever played. He stands among the best football players that have ever stepped on the football field. And, his statistics and play on the field bear that out.

Who else could be number 1?

Should the NBA Change the One-and-Done Rule?

8 Mar

basketball - derrick rose - college02

one and done rule

In an attempt to give its audience a better product and ease the strain on National Basketball Association management, the NBA installed a rule that prohibits players that are not at least one year removed from high school from entering their name into the NBA draft. This rule was made to protect the integrity of the league and raise the quality of basketball being played in games by pushing athletes into college programs for their own development. Theoretically, the one-and-done rule gives the student-athletes a year of college to mature emotionally, a year of basketball at a higher level which prepares them for the professional level, and gives general managers another year to assess their talent against better competition and in different systems. The rule should be beneficial to both college and professional basketball teams because it showcases the best talent in college and forces those athletes to play within the constraints of an established coach’s system. That, in turn, readies them for learning and excelling at a pro style offense. However, the one-and-done rule does not produce any of its intended results for the National College Athletic Association or the NBA. It depletes college basketball of its most valuable resource, the players, while simultaneously reducing the quality of its product. It often suffocates the creativity and thus the effectiveness of players while acclimating them to a new system and the new surroundings of a college campus. Consequently, they become less valuable to NBA general managers because of poorer play at the lower levels.

College basketball is suffering due to the one-and-done rule. Proponents of the rule say that the fans of college basketball would miss seeing the best talent in college basketball if the rule did not exist. Freshman phenoms like Derrick Rose and Greg Oden would never have played in the Final Four if the rule was not in place. College fans would have been robbed of seeing the clutch shooting antics of freshman, Brandon Knight, during the 2011 NCAA tournament, or the upset of the overall number 1 seed, Ohio State, led by freshman Jared Sullinger. The fact that these freshman define the state of college basketball, is proof that play in college basketball has attenuated greatly. Knight and Sullinger are talented basketball players and will play professionally, however they are not the dominant players that Rose and Oden were in their freshman years. They lack the physical explosiveness and emotional impact on the game that those two players had. Rose and Oden, by all accounts could have made the jump from high school to the pros seamlessly. Knight and Sullinger would have had to attend college. At the conclusion of this basketball season, Knight and Sullinger will not be ready to play professional basketball, but they probably will leave college anyway. Though the talent that enters the college basketball landscape is steadily increasing, the level of talent staying in college, and the play and cohesion of college teams is diminishing rapidly. Because it behooves them to leave after one year of college, the best freshman jump into the NBA draft regardless of their readiness to play at the next level or how it depletes their college team. For a freshman with NBA potential, every year that they stay in college is another year decreasing their overall earning potential in the NBA. 3 years costs the average NBA player at least $3-5 million dollars. In addition to simple economics, there is no guarantee that a player’s draft stock will rise with extra years of college. For every Brandon Roy that became a star and a lottery pick during his senior year, there is a David Lighty who could have left after his freshman season and been drafted in the first round with his teammates, but now is not going to be drafted before the 2nd round. For every Tim Duncan that stayed four years and honed his game to become one of the best players in college and NBA history, there is a Kalin Lucas, who could have been a lottery pick after his sophomore season, and now may go undrafted because of numerous injuries. The most logical step for gifted freshmen is to enter the NBA draft. The one-and-done rule and staying in college does not benefit players financially. And, the one-and-done rule does not help the National Basketball Association assess talent any better either. NBA executives continue to waste their picks on the same players after one year of basketball that they would have taken directly from high school regardless of their statistics in college. The same “potential” that existed in high school is there after a year of college, and NBA management can not risk missing out on the next big star, so inevitably they draft the same players that they would have taken straight from high school.

basketball - dean smith3

And, the one-and-done rule also hurts student-athletes’ growth as basketball players. College basketball coaches often stifle some of their most talented players. Dean Smith, the former coach of the North Carolina Tarheels who is regarded as one of the best coaches ever, was famous for being the only person to hold Michael Jordan’s scoring average under 20 points. He also slowed James Worthy, Vince Carter, and Brad Daugherty. But at least with Coach Smith, the players learned basketball, honed other skills, and eventually excelled at it. He even guided less talented players like Serge Zwikker, Pete Chilcutt, and George Lynch into the pros. He was one one of the few teachers of fundamentals in basketball. But, Dean Smith has retired and most tenured coaches across the nation do not help improve the skills of their players. Under Coach Krzyzewski at Duke University, if you do play the guard position in his system, you will not improve your skills and be drafted in the lottery. Christin Laetner, his best big man, was drafted because he learned to play on the wing. As a senior, he shot 50% from behind the arc and proved versatile enough to drafted high. Elton Brand and Sheldon Williams, two other Duke posts that were drafted in the lottery, never improved as basketball players. They never developed a go to move and therefore, never became dominant at the next level. Their basketball growth was stunted playing under Krzyzewski. Miles Plumlee, a current Duke big man, has regressed offensively in Krzyzewski’s guard-friendly offensive system, despite being one of the most physically-gifted centers that he has ever coached. Other coaches like Roy Williams, Bill Self, Rick Barnes, and Billy Donovan, who all reside at highly touted basketball campuses, simply plug the best athletes into positions in their systems and ready themselves for another year of basketball. If a player does not fit, he is relegated to the bench. Athletes, under these coaches, over the course of four years, never increase their skill level. Why would a player stay in college, bring millions of dollars in endorsements to the school without being paid, ignore the millions of dollars that await them at the next level, all without bettering their position in the draft? A student-athlete that opts to enter the draft, has the best NBA personnel and former players to teach them how to shoot, dribble, and apply skills to different situations, at their disposal. The one-and-done rule stunts player development by forcing college kids into a system that does not necessarily fit their skill set, by not refining those skills, and by robbing the high school players of better teachers.

The actual team play of college basketball has regressed because of the one-and-done rule too. Prior to forcing high school graduates into colleges for one year of basketball, the best basketball players made the leap into the National Basketball Association, and those that were not ready went to campuses of higher learning. Players that were unsure about there status in the league, played college ball until they had done enough to make the jump to the pros. Sometimes, it only took one year to make the decision to enter the draft; often, it took two to three years. And, college basketball reaped the benefits of this. College teams were stacked with NBA talent, because players waited until their stock was at its peak to leave college. High ranking Division I teams commonly boasted three to four pros on each squad. The national champions often had five or more future professional basketball players on it, and the quality of the basketball being played was high because teams with national rankings had talented juniors and seniors playing a prominent role in the outcomes of games. Those teams had more experience playing at a higher level and more time in their coaches’ system, so they executed plays and strategies better. The players knew each others’ tendencies, knew what type of passes they physically liked in order to catch the basketball, and knew the positions of their teammates on the basketball court without hesitating and thinking mid-play because they had played together for years. Teams played faster and more effectively because of the higher number of repetitions as a unit. And, though college basketball has more talent overall, the best squads have far less experience. The college game looks unpolished and unfinished as a result. Games are often decided by the blunder of an inexperienced player rather than a great play being executed by an established star. The lack of familiarity with their team’s system and with their teammates is caused by the one-and-done rule, and it hurts the flow and the finish of NCAA basketball.

The NCAA tournament, college basketball’s crowning achievement, has been marred by the poor play of inexperienced teams. The governing bodies in the NCAA say that there is great parity in the tournament this year, and they insinuate that the smaller conference teams have improved enough to challenge the bigger, power conferences. Truthfully, small teams like Butler and Virginia Common Wealth have improved their basketball programs, but they will play in the Final Four this year because conferences like the Big East and Big 12 underachieved greatly. The one-and-done rule has had one large unintended effect. The large schools still attract the best talent, but they also lose that talent every year. There is no consistency with the players that big colleges will put on the floor from year to year, and therefore the coaches constantly tweak their strategies and philosophy which leads to inconsistency in their teams. Against college basketball teams with inferior talent, programs like Kentucky and UNC dominate their competition. When they face competition with similar talent and some experience, a comedy of errors often ensues. The more experienced mid-major teams generally play better basketball than the youthful squads from big university. College teams from the smaller conferences have not caught up with the higher profile teams. The big-name basketball schools regularly put substandard squads onto the court and lose to better quality, smaller teams. The one-and-done rule has lessened the effectiveness of the big schools to execute good basketball and the overall quality of play for the NCAA tournament.

How do you stop this guy from coming into the league?

Surprisingly, the National Basketball Association has reaped no benefits from their rule either. League management assumed that the reason that professional basketball’s product and therefore viewing audiences were declining was because the talent was decreasing. They thought that general managers were drafting players that were too young solely on their potential, and that the year of playing college basketball would make the drafting process easier for their franchises’ general managers. Hypothetically, a year of polish would help players become better decision makers, and give individual management a clear view of a player’s gifts. The problem with that viewpoint is that, the same inept general managers that made poor decisions based on team need and financial decisions only, made the same poor decisions with the added information. The same management teams that drafted well before the one-and-done rule was in existence, drafted well after it was established. The problem was not necessarily the players, though a few did flourish under the strict rule of college coaches. The problem was the NBA offices. They over-valued raw athleticism and drafted players that were to under-developed skill-wise to play in the NBA immediately. Unskilled players languished on NBA benches and cost quite a few general managers their jobs. The answer to the poorly played basketball riddle was not to force players into college, but to find the players that were ready to fill a role once drafted.

The intrinsic problem with the one-and-done rule is that, by far, the best players in the NBA over the last decade have been prep to pros players. Basketball is dissimilar to football in that, the physical maturation that happens in the late teens and early twenties does not separate the talent as much. Basketball relies on size and skill equally as much as athleticism, so the added pounds of muscle that the average player gains in those years are not necessary, though they do help. Moses Malone, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Garnett are former NBA MVP’s. Malone is already a Hall of Fame player, and the other two are sure Hall of Fame candidates that never played a game of college basketball. Tracy McGrady, Jermaine O’Neal, Shawn Kemp, Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, Amare Stoudemire, and Rashard Lewis played in multiple All-Star games and have dominated the league at their positions. Plus, NBA rosters are littered with dozens of players that never stepped on a college campus, but are the leaders of or significant contributors to their teams, like Monta Ellis, Kendrick Perkins, Andrew Bynum, J.R. Smith, Al Jefferson, Al Harrington, and Tyson Chandler to name a few. And, the biggest argument towards dismissing the one-and-done rule is LeBron James. Kobe Bryant is historically the second-best scoring guard that has ever played professional basketball, but he took two years to show indications of what he would become. The National Basketball Association has never seen a physical talent like LeBron James. He walked into the history books in his inaugural season by completing a feat that only two people had done before him, averaging 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists per game in his first year. He went on to do what only three other people in NBA history have done by averaging 30 points, 7 assists, and 7 rebounds in the same year. He is one of two people to average 27 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists for 6 consecutive seasons. He is the only player in NBA history to average 26, 6, and 6 for his career. And, James is the youngest player to do just about everything in the NBA record books. How can anyone validate forcing a talent like LeBron James into college? He dominated professional basketball from his first year until now.

High school basketball translates more readily to professional basketball than college basketball. A high school team with a player that has the natural ability of a professional, fits their team concept around that player’s skills. The coach puts the basketball in his hands and tells him to go make a play. In the NBA, play is similar. Since it is a star-driven league, the best player always has the ball and takes the most shots. The coaches job is dependent upon how well he utilizes his star and how many games he wins. College coaches are only concerned with wins and losses, not the development of their athletes. The one-and-done rule robs the National Basketball Association of their most valuable resource, their talent pool.

The one-and-done rule has failed both college and professional basketball. Though the NCAA tournament is ripe with the upsets that fuel its following, the quality of play has waned uncontrollably. The smaller schools can compete with the power schools because of the attrition of basketball at those schools. The star power that drives both leagues is diminishing because of the lack of well-executed basketball and the lack of polished, experienced basketball talent. If players are talented enough to play in the National Basketball Association, then there is no good reason to stifle them in college basketball. However, if the players are not polished enough to play in the league, then they should not be drafted. Instead of forcing kids whose future is obviously in professional sports to attend college for one semester, why not force NBA general managers to pick the kids who are ready to play? For the sake of NCAA and NBA basketball, the National Basketball Association should rescind the one-and-done rule.