LaVar Ball’s Junior Basketball Association has officially kicked off, and he’s out promoting it constantly.
Now, the idea behind his league is solid. It provides his sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo — and countless others — an opportunity to play competitive basketball outside of the NCAA while they make a push to play professionally. It also offers athletes a chance to make money while doing it.
Except in a recent interview with SBNation’s Ricky O’Donnell, LaVar gave a weird piece of advice: One doesn’t need an education if they want to be a professional athlete.
“If you want to be a professional athlete, you don’t need to spend 50 percent of your time in class, which you’re not gonna use anyway, and 50 percent trying to play ball,” LaVar told SBNation. “Now you can be 100 percent in. If you really that guy, this is the way to go. If you’re only going be in college for a semester anyway, if you really that guy.”
Now granted, for a select few people, that statement is accurate. For the players who are truly gifted enough — people who are have a talent level like LeBron James’ or Kevin Durant’s or others like them — skipping their education is probably going to work out in their favor.
But this is dangerous advice for many reasons.
What happens if an athlete gets injured early on in their career? Skipping your education could become a real problem if this happens to an athlete — especially if it’s a major injury that they can’t bounce back from. Then what will they do?
What happens if an athlete doesn’t make it out of their rookie deal, and starts bouncing around from team to team or from league to league? According to The Undefeated, the average length of a career in the NBA is just 4.6 years. That’s not always sustainable — both from a professional standpoint and an economic standpoint.
What happens if an athlete doesn’t understand how to manage their contract of the money they’re bringing in? Sports Illustrated once estimated that 60 percent of NBA players are broke or under financial stress within five years of retirement. While an education isn’t a guarantee to prevent economic trouble in the future, it is a great place to start.
Now, this isn’t to say that every player should go to college and avoid LaVar’s JBA league. The collegiate route isn’t for everyone, and that’s fine.
And LaVar’s league does provide an option for players to get paid earlier than they would having gone the college route. That can be very beneficial — and even necessary — for some players.
But telling young kids that skipping your education to focus on basketball 100 percent is the best way to make it as a professional athlete is a dangerous game — and one that LaVar, or any parent, should not be playing.
The risk involved with that is simply too high.
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