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Time to Get Rid of Unjust “One-and-Done” College System

By Ken Reed

North Carolina beat Duke on Wednesday night, 88-72, in the renewal one of the best rivalries in sports.

But that wasn’t the story.

What lit up social media was the video clip of Duke star (and likely first pick in the upcoming NBA draft), Zion Williamson going down with a knee injury less than a minute into the game due to a faulty Nike basketball shoe that blew completely out as Williamson tried to plant his foot and cut.

Williamson was done for the game, and for all practical purposes, so was Duke, who barely put up a fight on its vaunted home floor against an inspired North Carolina team.

Nike’s nightmare evening was just beginning, however.

Shortly after Williamson went down, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram were filled with critics ripping Nike.  Photos and videos of Williamson’s unfortunate equipment malfunction, featuring the iconic Nike swoosh logo, zipped through cyberspace.

This negative brand moment for Nike was almost the polar opposite of the positive impact Nike received in 2005 when Tiger Wood’s chip shot on the 16th green at the Masters stopped momentarily on the edge of the cup (as a TV camera zoomed in on the Nike swoosh logo) before dropping in the cup.

Nike will recover.  They are masters at the art of public relations.

But the incident brings up an entirely different issue:  Why can’t superstars like Williamson go directly to the NBA?  The current silly “One-and-Done” situation, in which stars like Williamson are forced to play in college for a season before seeking NBA riches is socially and economically unjust.

Williamson should be in the NBA today, not in his Duke dorm room worrying about his injured knee and whether or not it will negatively impact his NBA draft position, as well as his economic future.

The NBA took a positive step this past fall by announcing that some elite high school prospects will be eligible for NBA G League (the NBA’s minor league) contracts worth $125,000/year starting in the 2019-20 season. The NBA calls this a “professional path” to the NBA.  However, that still limits superstars like Williamson who could make millions in the NBA right out of high school. Players with these new G League contracts won’t be eligible for the NBA draft until they complete a required season in the G League.

Let’s stop all this nonsense and give high school stars the option of playing in college, the G League, the NBA or pro leagues overseas.

One-and-Done needs to die.  Let high school players declare for the draft.  Let them have agents.  Let them decide to go to college, or the G League, if they don’t like their NBA draft position or don’t get drafted at all.

In the Land of Opportunity, high school basketball sensations should be allowed to pursue their craft at the highest levels, and for the highest compensation possible.

If that was the case going into this season, Zion Williamson wouldn’t have seen his basketball life — and economic future flash before his eyes — after his Nike sneaker blew up Wednesday night.

— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans

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