Negotiations on lowering the NBA’s age limit have stalled, though there’s plenty of time to negotiate before the targeted allowance of high school players declaring for the draft in 2022.
In the meantime, the NBA’s minor league will soon offer $125,000 salaries to 18-year-olds – up from the standard G League salary of $35,000. Will players sign those Select Contracts rather than playing college basketball, which comes with cartel-limited compensation?
Darius Bazley – who committed to Syracuse, planned to play in the NBA’s minor league then decided to sit out the upcoming season – could provide an illuminating test case. Represented by Rich Paul, Bazley signed an endorsement deal with New Balance.
According to Paul, Bazley’s multiyear deal will pay him $1 million “no matter what happens” with his N.B.A. career — and can pay up to $14 million if he reaches all performance incentives.
That dwarfs even the increased minor-league salary. Bazley can receive that endorsement money because he no longer cares about preserving college eligibility. The same would apply to Select Contract players.
But the shoe company would become the primary employer. If the shoe company decides playing in the NBA’s minor-league for $125,000 offers the best return on investment, that’s what the player will do. If the shoe company decides the player is better off doing something else, the player will do that.
Bazley ranked just No. 17 in his class, per the 247 composite. He projects as a late first-rounder once draft-eligible next year. The money gets even bigger with more highly touted prospects.
College basketball remains the place that offers them the most exposure, and shoe companies might continue to funnel players there with under-the-table payments. That was no longer an option with Bazley, but this ought to serve as a reminder of who drives the money for elite 18-year-old players. It isn’t the G League.