Getty Images

LeBron James: ‘NCAA is corrupt, we know that’

9 Comments

The self-serving, laughable facade of the NCAA’s amateurism is crumbling.

The FBI investigation (which included a raid on the office of prominent agent Andy Miller) has exposed what everyone in the game already knew — money has been changing hands to line the pockets players/families/influencers for a long time. Coaches are in on it, agents are in on it, shoe companies are in on it, but it’s all done within a “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain” system. Universities rake in the cash on the free labor of players in revenue sports — a college with a good basketball team sees alumni donations go up, the number of applicants to the school increase, there is a prestige factor, and it all more than pays for the seven-figure salary for the coach (which is not counting his shoe deal). Much of what the FBI has uncovered is not a federal crime, but the NCAA looks foolish. And this is far from over.

It leaves parents of athletes who could play major college sports with serious questions. LeBron James is one of those parents (LeBron James Jr., age 13, reportedly has standing offers at Duke and Kentucky.) Asked about it Tuesday at shootaround, LeBron — who skipped college to go to the NBA — ripped the NCAA. Via Dave McMenamin at ESPN.

“I don’t know if there’s any fixing the NCAA. I don’t think there is,” James said Tuesday. “It’s what’s been going on for many, many, many, many years. I don’t know how you can fix it. I don’t see how you can fix it….

“I’m not a fan of the NCAA,” James said. “I love watching March Madness. I think that’s incredible. I’m not a fan of how the kids don’t benefit from none of this, so it’s kind of a fine line and I’ve got a couple boys that could be headed in that direction, so there’s going to be some decisions that we as a family have to make. But I know, as the NBA, we have to figure out a way that we can shore up our farm league, and if kids feel like they don’t want to be a part of that NCAA program, then we have something here for them to be able to jump back on and not have to worry about going overseas all the time, I guess.

“We have to figure that out, but kids getting paid is nothing new under the sun. You all seen ‘Blue Chips’? It’s a real movie, seriously. … The NCAA is corrupt, we know that. Sorry, it’s going to make headlines, but it’s corrupt.”

LeBron went on to discuss another truth in this — the NBA plays a role in all of it.

The one-and-done rule is part of the reason the money flows the way it does: It’s of great value to shoe companies and colleges to get the five-star recruits to go to a specific school, so the benefits flow under the table. Sometimes it goes to the player, more often it goes to a family member or influential AAU coach or someone else who can help steer the player to a school. Think of it this way (and I use this example not because I have publishable evidence of specific wrongdoing, it’s just because I know the numbers): Under Armour signed a 15-year, $280 million shoe and apparel deal with UCLA in 2016, that’s $18.7 million a year to the university — and you can be sure the company expects to make a profit on top of that. So if you’re Under Armour, a $100,000 payout to steer an elite player to UCLA — where he will raise the school’s profile and sell jerseys/gear/shoes — is a minor additional investment.

In talks with the players union and consulting with colleges, the NBA apparently is moving (slowly) toward a system that allows teams to draft a player straight out of high school (if he goes to college he has to stay at least two years). Teams now have a better focus on developing players, and they have an expanded G-League, that can help players make the leap to the NBA better than a year in college, for the elite guys. It’s not for everyone, but for guys such as Ben Simmons what is the point of a season at LSU if you’re already looking ahead?

Maverick Carter, the right-hand business agent, and friend of LeBron James, put it this way in a fantastic roundtable at USA Today.

“I think the NBA and the teams have to really roll up their sleeves, put together a team, a task force, a committee, and really figure this out because it’s a very complex issue. You have young players, lots of them African Americans, but also not African Americans, who come up through the system as it is today and don’t get paid until they maybe make it to the NBA. But everybody else is getting paid along the way. AAU coaches, AAU teams, college coaches, college teams, colleges. So when they do take money, it’s only a story because the NCAA has these stupid-ass rules that are so archaic, so you have to fix that whole thing and figure out a way to do it. I own a piece of Liverpool football club, in European soccer, because the clubs have systems all the way down to the youth. They’ve figured out a way where they don’t have to deal with it.”

 

Kevin Love, NBA world reacts to death of Wes Unseld

Ron Koch/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Wes Unseld, the first black athlete to be offered a scholarship at the University of Kentucky (he turned it down to attend Louisville), who then went on to a Hall of Fame career in the NBA, died at the age of 74.

Around the NBA there has been mourning, starting with Kevin Love, who’s middle name is Wesley after Unseld.

“Wes Unseld was one of the most consequential players of his era,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “An NBA MVP and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, Wes elevated the game by mastering the fundamentals. His competitive drive and selfless approach made him a beloved teammate, a respected opponent and a cornerstone of the Washington Wizards franchise, with whom he won an NBA championship. Wes also set the model of class, integrity and professionalism for the entire NBA family during stints as a player, coach and team executive with Washington and through his dedication to expanding educational opportunities for children. We send our deepest sympathies to Wes’ wife, Connie; their son, Wes Jr. (who is an assistant coach with the Denver Nuggets); their daughter, Kim; and the Wizards organization.”

The best player currently in Washington, Bradley Beal, led a chorus of people taking to social media to praise Unseld.

Kings TV play-by-play announcer Grant Napear resigns after “all lives matter” Tweet

Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sacramento television play-by-play announcer Grant Napear resigned on Tuesday amidst an intense backlash from former Kings’ players and many fans after Napear’s “all lives matter” comment on Twitter.

Napear had been the Kings’ play-by-play man since 1988, plus he was the host of a sports talk radio show on Sports 1140 in Sacramento. Napear lost both of those jobs within days of his Tweet.

“Our company values and honors inclusion and equality,” Kings’ broadcast partner NBC Sports California said in a statement before Napear’s announcement. “Racism, injustice and violence run counter to everything we stand for and cannot be tolerated in our society. Grant Napear’s recent comments on Twitter do not reflect the views of NBC Sports California. We’ve spoken to Grant’s employer, the Sacramento Kings, about the matter.”

“I want to thank the fans for their overwhelming love and support,” Napear said in a statement. “I will always remain a part of Kings nation in my heart.”

“His recent comments about the Black Lives Matter movement do not reflect the views or values of Bonneville International Corporation,” the media company that owns Sports 1140 said in a statement announcing the change. “The timing of Grant’s tweet was particularly insensitive. After reviewing the matter carefully, we have made the difficult decision to part ways with Grant.”

The controversy started with former Kings’ big man DeMarcus Cousins, in the wake of nationwide protests following the killing of George Floyd, asked Napear what he thought and got the “all lives matter” response.

“All lives matter” is a controversial phrase that has become a flashpoint. It’s a phrase used by those opposed to the Black Lives Matter movement to try and discredit it, to try and undercut and change the topic away from the much-needed discussion of racism and how black Americans are treated by the police — and other institutions — in this nation.

Cousins quickly responded that he expected this from Napear.

Chris Webber and Matt Barnes, two other former Kings, jumped in to comment about Napear.

“Closet racist” is a strong phrase, but Tom Ziller, the longtime NBA writer based out of Sacramento, said in his Tuesday newsletter “This element of Napear’s personality has been obvious to anyone who listened to his radio show even occasionally over the past 20 years.”

Napier took to Twitter to try and apologize.

On Monday he was put on leave from his radio show, and by Tuesday he had resigned as Kings’ play-by-play man and no longer was part of his radio show with former King Doug Christie.

Report: NBA season could last through Oct. 12

Spurs wing DeMar DeRozan and 76ers forward Tobias Harris
Cameron Pollack/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The NBA is reportedly targeting July 31 for resuming games.

Now, we also have a planned end date for the season.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The big question: What happens between July 31 and Oct. 12?

Most likely, 22 teams will return for more regular-season games, a play-in tournament then playoffs. It appears a last-ditch argument for all 30 teams continuing has stalled.

But that still leaves many questions within a 22-team structure. How many regular-season games will each team play? How many seeds will be up for grabs in the play-in tournament? How many teams will qualify for the play-in tournament. Will the the playoffs have 1-16 seeding?

And then there’s next season and beyond. The NBA will obviously delay the start of the next season. But will the league work back toward an October start for future seasons? Or will this be the beginning of regularly starting the season in December?

Still, as many questions remain unanswered, the timeline is coming into sharper focus.

Tilman Fertitta: ‘Such a disappointment’ Rockets faced trouble for Daryl Morey’s tweet

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and owner Tilman Fertitta
Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

When Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for Hong Kong protesters (who are trying to maintain and expand their freedoms), Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta quickly distanced the organization. Though he never publicly condemned Morey, Fertitta emphasized that Morey was speaking as a private citizen and not for the organization.

But the winds have turned. The Knicks are facing criticism for not saying enough about the death of George Floyd. The Rockets – as apolitical as Fertitta says they should be – even released a statement on the death of Floyd:

How does Fertitta reconcile the different approaches?

Power Lunch:

Fertitta:

Speaking up of an issue in America and speaking up on an issue that’s somewhere else in the world are two different matters, OK? In America, we have free speech, and we can do whatever want to do and say whatever we want and not be penalize because of it. And that’s why we all love this country so much.

One hundred percent, I believe that you should not be a political organization, because we have 60 thousand employees and a hundred million customers, and we don’t always agree. It’s usually 50 percent one way and 50 percent this way.

But when it comes to an issue like this in America, you sure should speak out and say exactly what you want. And I encourage all my employees – from my basketball team to my restaurants to my hotels to my casinos – to speak out on this issue, and let’s make this world better and this country better that we live in that’s been great for so many of us.

I go back to what happened to Eric Garner in New York, which is a second home to me, and of course George Floyd, who is from Houston, Texas. And it’s inexcusable for two men to die like that, who did not appear to be putting up a fight. And I totally agree, and I understand the protests and the injustice out there.

And it’s really a shame that, because of a few bad people, that the distraction of protesting for the inequality, that we have to watch everything else. And we know this. There’s bad journalists. There’s bad CEOs. There’s a few bad cops. And there’s a few bad protesters. And it’s so disappointing, because I love that the protesting. That’s what makes America great.

And remember, we got in trouble, my team, earlier in the year because we commented about something, which was such a disapointment, because that’s what makes America great.

This is the most strongly – by far – Ferttita has supported Morey about the Hong Kong tweet. My question: Why now? When he tweeted, Morey was an American citizen who enjoyed the freedom of speech Fertitta espouses. Fertitta could have backed Morey like this at the time, even while maintaining a message that Morey didn’t speak for the organization.

Morey’s tweet cost the NBA, including the Rockets, a lot of money in China. Everyone quickly entered damage control. Fertitta appeared more focused on the financial ramifications than anything else.

Right now, it’s popular to stand for racial justice. Customers appreciate it. So, supposedly apolitical organizations like the Rockets are issuing statements on George Floyd.

That’s why I’m not looking to professional basketball teams for leadership on these issues. It’s easy when doing the right thing aligns with maximizing profits. When those things don’t align, it’s far messier.

Even in this interview, Fertitta struggled to keep his message consistent. He said both “Speaking up of an issue in America and speaking up on an issue that’s somewhere else in the world are two different matters” then later “let’s make this world better.” But after that slip into acknowledging global considerations, Fertitta jumped right back to “this country better that we live in that’s been great for so many of us.”

Some Americans focus on injustice in America. Some Americans are concerned with with injustice elsewhere. There’s not a major difference between those outlooks  – unless it screws up the money.