Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Stern Apologists

I couldn't avoid being provoked by the attempted defense of Massa Stern by my colleague, Mr. B. Atlantic.

Even if you are in favor of the age limit, Mr. Atlantic's response reeks of paternalism and elitism. I suppose Mr. Atlantic's perspective is obvious given his off-hand (and perhaps unneeded) reference to coordination failures on Wall Street (or as some would say, Wall Cheat). But I wonder why the other side thinks that NBA players can't take care of themselves, and perhaps more importantly, why those players who are not on Mr. Atlantic's Eight Fold Path would be remedied by being forced to go to college for one year.

First, the elitism and tinges of racism. I'd be curious to know Mr. Atlantic: how many of these high school to pro players are coming from "rusty gyms in the Mississippi"? Indeed, what fraction of the players affected by the age limit are white? Even in percentage terms, this policy surely differentially hurts the African-American players.

Second, the analysis rests on shoddy counterfactual reasoning. I'm not convinced that LBJ, Howard and Ellis would have behaved any differently had they been forced to go to college. I could easily have imagined it the other way. Atlantic seems to forget the other iron law of unintended consequences. The policy leads to players going to Europe until they turn 19. Does he expect the players to get counseling on condom use on the French Riviera?

Finally, and most importantly, why is forcing someone to go to college for one year the best way to help someone get on the right track? That is, why doesn't the NBA provide more services for these young players, such as someone to help manage finances, the press, family obligations, etc. to get them on the Eight Fold path. What in particular do they learn in college that is relevant? There are much better ways to deal with the alleged issues than forcing someone to go to college.

The obvious answer as to why the NBA does not consider this is that it would directly take out of Massa Stern's pockets, something which he and the owners he represents are unwilling to do.

1 comment:

Bhel Atlantic said...


I really don't think "rusty gyms in the Mississippi delta" had any racial suggestion. Most poor people in the US are rural and white.

How many top HS prospects have played in Europe, rather than US college, since the age limit was introduced following the 2005 draft? Just one.

The NBA already provides services and counseling to young players regarding finances, press dealings, and so forth. If some young fools can't be bothered to pay attention because they are still children, that's an argument for more pre-professional apprenticeship.