WHY THE NBA DREAM IS RUINING COLLEGE BASKETBALL The National Basketball Association is a corporate powerhouse with installments in nearly every major city in the United States. With the exception of European soccer, professional basketball generates more money per season than any other sport in the world. NBA superstars carry as much authority in the entertainment business as the most popular actors, comedians, and musicians. Even the guys who are last off the bench are making more money in one season than the average middle-class worker makes in five years.

Corporate America sells its images, logos, slogans, ideas, and viable goods by employing NBA stars to speak publicly on-behalf of their materials. More and more NBA players are showing up in commercials, in magazine ads, on billboards, and in movies. They have their own radio talk shows, their own clothing and shoe lines, their own video games, and even their own restaurants. Essentially, turning pro opens the door to a lifestyle of undeniable prestige, comfort, and public adornment.

NBA players can commit the harshest of criminal violations and get off with minimal penalties. NBA players can have just about any woman they want! Enough said. Thankfully, it takes an incredible amount of skill and determination to make it as a professional basketball player. In the last twenty-five years only a handful of high-school athletes have skipped college and gone straight to the big show. Some of these young men built enduring careers and some were washed out before they reached the legal drinking age of 21. Some made it to the hall-of-fame and some remain in the hall-of-shame.

Nevertheless, in the past five years there has been an upsurge in the number of high-school athletes who have chosen to forego college and enter the draft. Debate and discussion over this topic as been heated as of late. College coaches argue against professional coaches, writers and reporters argue against sporting agents and advertising executives, and parents squabble with their blue-chip prospects. Supporters of this trend say high-school athletes have the right to select their own path, while their opponents argue that high-school athletes miss-out on a remarkable education opportunity by overlooking the college experience.

Clearly, the NBA has no intention of preventing high-school athletes from entering the draft; thus, their position seems translucent at best. As long as these young athletes learn the game and are marketable by the league's standards they will be applauded for their efforts. College basketball has suffered as of late because of this inclination. Too many talented kids have jumped to the pros without considering the benefits college offers. Besides earning a substantial degree and being able to find a job after the basketball years have passed, college allows athletes to physical and mentally mature in their roles as leaders on and off the court. The skill levels of younger generations are evolving at an astonishing rate, but basketball at the professional level is much more than skill.

The NBA game is as much mental patience and court understanding as it is physical domination. High school athletes typically lack the mental sharpness playing in the NBA demands, but college recruiters and coaches have not been able to successfully sell the benefits of education over the big pay offs agents guarantee. Maturity off the court is another issue. Eighteen and nineteen year-old professional athletes should not have to deal with the stresses the NBA unleashes on its new inductees. Money, women, drugs, gambling, travel demands, and corporate contracts are extremely dangerous at such young ages. Once again, it comes back to college representatives not being able to out-market NBA agents and the big promises and incentives they regularly promise.

Agents also commonly point out the difficulty in managing educational tasks and basketball over a four or five year time frame. "Why would you want to study? Don't you just want to play ball? You " re not getting paid to study!" These are an agents blue-chip pitches! Thus, it seems college basketball is being beaten by greed. We brainwash our younger generations with images of the NBA lifestyle, the fan favor, and the glory. Oddly, we never see images of what professional basketball players are doing after their careers are over. With the exception of a few sports announcers and commentators, we rarely hear about the guy who blew his knee or was sentenced to a few years in prison for drug charges. No one cares about the has-been no name guy who retired after two seasons of warming the bench.

I'm sure agents fail to mention or recognize how difficult finding a real job can be in this day and age without some kind of collegiate degree. And still, an education takes a back-seat to professional basketball nine times out of ten. Young guys see big checks, draft-day, shoe deals, and fancy cars, and the idea of college gets thrown out the window. In turn, the competition at the collegiate level suffers. In my opinion, the National Basketball Association should construct a minor-league like the one in place under professional baseball.

The level of play at the highest level should not suffer because young guys do not know the ins and outs of the game. They should also put a pay-cap on the potential salaries of such under-aged athletes, and agents should be completely removed from the decision making process. None of these things will ever happen though because the NBA makes too much money off its young stars. Sports marketing is already a multimillion dollar business, and agents continue to claw into middle school gyms across the country looking for the next Kob i or Kwame. Moreover, with a game that continues to evolve around its new talent each year, raw flair draws in sponsors, advertisers, and marketers. The public loves to see the young versus the old, and the NBA loves to make money off these kind of situations.

So long as colleges are not paying their athletes, which many do in forms of scholarships and performance incentives, college basketball will continue to lose its battle against the NBA's appeal to young athletes. In this society education is no longer the most rewarding stable of success, instead it's how many rings you have on your finger and how many video games you have named in your honor.