Shawn Marion on Unfair Labor Practices

Via Sheridan Hoops, I found this lovely quote from Shawn Marion:

“I think the age requirement for coming into the league should be higher,” he said.


“You’ve got to be ready to come in, step in and contribute versus trying to teach them the game still. (In college) they get their A’s and B’s of basketball, so by the time they get here, they’ve got the game plan, know how to run a pick and roll, learn the defensive sets. That should be instructed to them in college.”

What's amusing about this is that, if you read this in a certain context, it sounds very much like Marion is saying that it's the players job to learn "the A's and B's," as it were, and that the NBA shouldn't have to pay to teach them this stuff. And that's fair, I guess...

Oh wait, it's actually not fair at all! Because you know what most people who do their jobs get?


The simple fact is that any player good enough to make an NBA roster is good enough to be making an NCAA program a lot of money (for the moment, we will gloss over the fact that some very bad talent evaluators use draft picks on guys like Austin Rivers and Marcus Teague). There's also plenty of evidence that further years in college playing by different rules versus inferior talent is not, in fact, better at preparing you for the NBA, and that the learning period just gets delayed. When you play against a 2/3 zone that doesn't need to abide by a defensive 3-second rule for 40 minutes a game, you probably aren't going to run a shitload of pick-and-roll (most attack-the-zone offenses in college don't run it, or don't use it to get the same types of looks that an NBA pick-and-roll/pop would). Hell, when your coach makes you play defense in a 2/3 zone for 40 minutes a game, you don't learn much about defending in the NBA either.

By advocating that players stay in college, Marion is advocating that the NCAA should continue to exploit the best players. And sure, that's great business for the NCAA, and maybe even for the NBA, but it sucks for those players. Take it from John Calipari (as related by DeMarcus Cousins to Grantland):

Cousins met with Calipari after the season. “Stay at Kentucky if you want to help take care of my family," Calipari said. "Go if you want to take care of yours.”

“Once he put it in those words, it wasn’t really a tough decision at all,” Cousins said of declaring.

Indeed it isn't. Calipari hits on something we talk about all the time here: when the NCAA claims that sports programs lose money, we immediately ask "Then why do you pay coaches millions of dollars for it?" Calipari knows quite well that he and his fellow coaches (and their families!) are the main beneficiaries of all that free labor. And, yes, it's great that he's honest about it with his players. But is a system in which fariness depends on the integrity of the guys earning the big paychecks really a system that players with NBA talent want in place?

It seems to me that Calipari is doing something that Marion is not willing to do: tell it like it is to young players in college. I would hope that players like LeBron, Garnett, and Kobe, who didn't have to go through a year of exploitation in the NCAA, might speak up and disagree with Marion, or that players like Anthony Davis and John Wall, who only spent one year in college ball, might ask Marion to keep his opinion to himself.

Or maybe Brandon Jennings can speak up and explain to todays high schoolers that you can get paid to "get your A's and B's"; you don't have to let the NCAA rip you off. Despite a very underwhelming tour in Europe, Jennings still went high in his draft based on the hype he had as a high school player. Sure, playing in March Madness is a dream for many young men. But getting paid to play basketball against professionals while travelling the world sounds like a good deal too.