By Bradford Brooks
Who would have thought that a 50 year-old ex basketball player who never averaged more than two points per game in college would have the potential to change the landscape of college basketball?
Well, the ever so popular and outspoken, Lavar Ball, might have created a formula that will transform basketball forever. After both of his younger sons, LiAngelo and Lamelo signed 1 year overseas contracts with a Lithuanian team, Ball announced that he has plans to start his own basketball league.
The Junior Basketball League will be for nationally ranked players who have graduated from high school but don’t want to go to college. With lingering questions about if college athletes should be paid becoming louder by the day.
Ball is seemingly looking to help athletes who wish to get paid earlier before they reach the pros. Ball said the league will be fully funded by Big Baller Brand and will pay its players a salary between $3,000 a month for the lower-ranked players and up to $10,000 a month for the top recruits.
The JBL is still in the early stages of development and there are still so many questions that need to be answered. Who will Lavar partner with? How will he compete against the NCAA, the NBA G-League, and the Overseas leagues?
The NBA G-League reduced its age minimum to 18 years old, so high school kids can go directly to the NBA’s development league instead of going to college. However, there has never been enough talent congregated in the NBA G-League to drive mainstream interest (partly because the top salary is less than $4,500 a month); if Ball’s league can somehow gather even 15 of the top 100 prospects in the country, I think he can build an audience.
Yet, busting up the NCAA’s stranglehold on elite basketball players below the NBA age requirement will be difficult and probably impossible work. A more reasonable person probably wouldn’t take this step.
However, Lavar Ball, does not seem to be reasonable.
There absolutely needs to be a better path for players who have no desire to go to college or have no intention on staying in school long enough to get an adequate education.
In the past, I’ve been a proponent of creating a system like Ball’s, where major football and basketball prospects could defer their schooling and take classes after they have exhausted their athletic eligibility and explored pro options.
It’s unreasonable to expect players who have realistic aspirations for the pros to focus on school and football or basketball at the same time; it’s equally absurd to limit the amount of time a coach can spend coaching a player whose primary goal is getting better at football or basketball.
Ball’s league solves those problems. Ball knows there is still a lot of work ahead if it’s going to be successful. If this league turns out to be more than a gimmick, answers to these questions will reveal themselves in the not-so-distant future.
However, the outlier here is still Lavar Ball. We never know if LaVar Ball is for real, until his plan comes to fruition. And if this next business venture is as successful as Big Baller Brand, the basketball landscape could be in for a shakeup.