When the clock strikes midnight on July 1 each year, not only does cinderella undergo a transformation but the entire NBA also receives a makeover. Basketball fanatics begin checking for free agency updates around the clock since teams are now allowed to bid for the biggest stars on its market. The players entertain suitors due to a number of reasons, one may have houses or property in other cities, some are devoid of and looking for the ultimate prize in sports—a championship—but the vast majority of gems in this competitive sweepstakes each year simply want one thing: that mean green. This off-season, the stars are getting paid with a Capital P.

Steph Curry was the first player since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to win league MVP unanimously, but before his July 1 contract of $201M’s he wasn’t even the highest paid player on his star studded team. His contract made him the top grossing baller annually in all of major professional sports for a brief stint. But just when free agency started to get good after Gordon Hayward signed with the Celtics, James Harden surpassed Steph, and will now make over half a billion dollars over the next 5 years with his max deal plus endorsements. It’s like it’s Christmas in July for the elite (and some not so elite) players who are getting max deals.

Tim Hardaway Jr. will be earning a max of 71 Million over the next four years which is a lot more than his dad, an all-star formerly of ‘Run TMC,’ ever made throughout the 90s. As the salary cap increases each year, players will only see bigger dividends next summer and beyond, but don’t let all the hoopla over basketball stars and their contracts detract from the sport actually going on right now, which is baseball.

Those guys get beaucoup money, and it’s all guaranteed. Top earners in the majors don’t endure the same wear and tear on their bodies as most other sports, yet they get to chill and watch their income accumulate each year. With that being said, the recent chatter about major professional athletes’ paydays exposes the caveat to these deals. 

If money is indeed the root of all evil, then the NCAA is the biggest villain since the Joker in The Dark Knight series. Haters try to ridicule Lavar Ball and his parenting tactics, but the man is brilliant and his masterplan is one of the only viable coping mechanisms to the NCAA’s corrupt scheme. The 24 hour news cycle of Lavar’s insufferable genius and must-see moments has helped him exploit this system by stripping his son Lonzo of all things UCLA. He even created the family’s own brand before his multi-million dollar talent of a kid finished school. Not only does the black father raising three boys outside of Los Angeles deserve his own reality show on VH1, but he also isn’t far from being a transcendent businessman and entrepreneur, if he nixes the overpriced kicks. Although the Big Baller Brand (BBB) is out on the market with sweatshirts, hats and a controversial signature shoe, his kids aren’t allowed to profit off of the merchandise while in college because it violates the NCAA rule book, essentially it’s a 'No Fly Zone.' 

This won’t fly while Liangelo and Lamelo, the other two Bs in the puzzle, are in college because profiting of one's name or likeness is against the amateur athlete code. Between practice ‘20 hours’ a week, study hall and tutoring sessions, a full academic course load, film review, media availability, and the occasional dosage of sleep rummaged in between said activities, I find it difficult to grasp this notion of ‘amateur status.’ College athletics is a job, it is definitely not for play play. 

Nick Saban doesn’t make 11.1 million a year to coach a bunch of pop warner schmucks. He recruits the best players to come to Alabama to win championships and gain a ton of revenue for the school community. Then they typically go on to play in the NFL with hopes to earn similar bread as their former coach’s check. Either the coaches are overpaid or the players are well underpaid, but that can’t even be an argument because NCAA athletes don’t earn anything.

Should Saban be earning more than a Joe Johnson or Avery Bradley for teaching 21-year-old tackling machines how to run a Tampa 2 defense? No, but Bo Scarbrough deserves to have a decent enough compensation for attracting the 102,000 fans to show up on gameday while the rest of America tunes into the Iron Bowl through their cable subscriber. ESPN paid over 7 Billion dollars for the rights to broadcast the College Football Playoff games, yet the players who generate its viewership don’t get a single cent. MTV should continue its True Life reality series with weekly installments devoted to D1 student-athletes entitled True Life: I am a slave to the NCAA just so this narrative can accurately be depicted and broadcasted to the entire nation. 

Each athlete that sacrifices his body for a university, town, and in some places the whole state, should earn a paycheck at least equivalent to minimum wage because college sports ain’t no joke. The NCAA needs to loosen its reins on these men and women and emancipate those willing to dedicate themselves to the game. Athletes are playing for something bigger than themselves, so the system better pay up before it’s too late.

Some people really need it.

-AJ II

 

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