LaVar Ball, a college basketball star, father of three basketball players, and founder and CEO of the sports apparel company Big Baller Brand, has launched a professional basketball league for high school graduates who do not attend college. The announcement comes shortly after Ball’s son LiAngelo — famous for getting arrested in China and freed thanks to President Donald Trump — withdrew from UCLA, dropping out of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
“There is no need to partake in an institution that claims its purpose is not to help you prepare for your professional career,” LaVar Ball said in a statement about the launch of his alternate league, the Junior Basketball Association (JBA).
In the statement, ball quoted a recent statement from the NCAA president, Mark Emmert, when LiAngelo Ball withdrew from UCLA.
“Is this a part of someone being part of your university as a student-athlete or is it about using college athletics to prepare yourself to be a pro? If it’s the latter, you shouldn’t be there in the first place,” Emmert said.
“And we agree!” LaVar Ball responded in the statement posted on Slam Online. “For decades, the NCAA has run a business that has exploited thousands of teens, while college institutions, coaches, media conglomerates, and corporate sponsors have all profited from the model.”
Ball announced that “all nationally ranked high school seniors, whose main goal are to reach the NBA, will be offered an opportunity to join the JBA, turning pro straight out of high school and bypassing the usual college pit stop” (emphasis added).
The Big Baller Brand CEO added that “participating players will be paid up to $10,000 per month, as they prepare to enter the NBA Draft the following year.”
Shots fired! While powerful organizations like the NCAA and colleges will likely complain about this competition, Ball has a few very important points that illustrate just how messed up the NCAA system is.
Professional athletes make a killing because they provide excellence and entertainment which millions of Americans admire and watch. While athletes are in college, they may receive scholarships but they do not receive a full payment equal to the actual value of their talent.
Athletes take extreme risks of injury and devote themselves to tough training regimens, and deserve to be compensated for their dedication and excellence. While in college, they do not receive the kind of salary professionals receive.
Furthermore, the insistence that they receive a college education may seem positive, but it has two deleterious effects. First, college seems like a distraction to athletes whose primary goal is the professional arena. Ball is correct that colleges do not claim their primary purpose is “to help prepare you for your professional career.” This is not what college is for — college is about education.
That brings up a second flaw in the current system — colleges bend over backwards to recruit sports talent, and dedicate enormous time and treasure to sports programs which are not what higher education is essentially about. Higher education aims to develop hearts and minds, not athletic bodies.
The presence of mammoth sports programs has contributed to the dumbing down of colleges and the ever-increasing and lamentable emphasis on employment after college, rather than education for its own sake.
Separating professional sports from “the usual college pit stop” would be good for athletes — providing them an alternate track to go pro as soon as possible — and for colleges — enabling them to dedicate themselves to academics rather than sports.
Sports like basketball, football, and soccer are indeed a positive part of human culture, and athletics is an essential element of human flourishing. For this reason, colleges should indeed have sports teams (both professional and amateur), and the high caliber players who wish to gain a collegiate education should be praised for their dedication to learning and sport.
Even so, LaVar Ball’s innovation is a step in the right direction, because it allows players for whom academics is less important than their career to pursue those career prospects full time. They can dedicate themselves wholly to sports excellence, and colleges can dedicate themselves more wholeheartedly to academics.
For this reason, the JBA should be considered a win-win for both athletes and colleges, even though it may cost colleges and the NCAA a great deal of money in the short run.
Ball has gained a great deal of notoriety recently, partially for getting into a tussle with President Trump.
After his son LiAngelo got arrested for stealing in China — and spent three days in jail for it — President Trump orchestrated the boy’s release. The boy publicly confessed to the crime and thanked Trump in a press release.
Shortly thereafter, LaVar Ball refused to thank Trump for securing his son’s release. “Did he go visit them in jail? Did you go visit them in jail?” Ball asked on “Good Morning America.” “If you went to visit them in jail then I would say, ‘Thank you.'”
An incensed Trump responded, “I should have left them in jail!”
Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2017
Ball had a hilarious interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo late last month, where the father refused to say “Thank You” to Cuomo. (The segment gets hilarious around 13:45 in the video below.)
Ball also tweeted a .gif of himself slam dunking over Trump, and the president angrily tweeting in response.
— Lavar Ball (@Lavarbigballer) December 7, 2017
Whatever Ball’s errors with Trump, however, this idea with the JBA is a good one, and would have positive long-term effects in sports and higher education.