Posted on January 11, 2011 by

What Would You Do?

Part I.

Andrew Luck, the amazing Stanford QB, elected to stay in college for another year instead of going pro.  Luck was projected to be the #1 pick in the draft and make anywhere between $10 million and $50 million, guaranteed.  I think it’s advisable to stay in school if another year will lead to further maturation/development and improved draft likelihood/status.  But Luck is considered the best in his position already.  You cannot be drafted any higher than #1.  Another year in school for Luck could, in the best case scenario, keep him at par in draft status, and in the worst case, he could fall to a career ending injury (see: bad Luck).  Supporters may argue that he is avoiding the draft because of the potential for a NFL lockout, but Luck has not indicated that as his motivation.  What would you do?

Part II.

A few years ago, the NBA instituted a rule that allows only players 19 and older and one year removed from high school to be eligible to play in the NBA.  If I was a high school senior, and I was offered a salary comparable to an NBA rookie salary (e.g., $2 million) to work at  Goldman Sachs or Google instead of going to college, I would do it in a heart beat.  And if I didn’t, I hope my parents would make me.  The opportunity cost for not accepting the job would be too substantial.  What if I go to college and the market crashes 4 years later and the job market is dried up?  Now, I have a degree but no job.  If I took the job and  if for some reason I wasn’t cut out for it or I got fired or I injured my typing hand, I would immediately go back to school and get a degree….with $2 million in my bank.    Now, let’s suppose you come from an economically disadvantaged family and you were a gifted basketball player.  If you had the option of being drafted and securing $2 million, what would you do?  You can always go back to college, right?

The current rules were implemented to prevent kids from going pro before college and subsequently failing, mismanaging their new wealth, and ending up with more challenges than before.  But forcing an athlete to stay for 1 or 2 years doesn’t mitigate these issues.  Instead of enforcing age restrictions, why not provide mandatory financial guidance or even withhold the cash and distribute it over a fixed period of time?  The athletes will be forced to be responsible.  Quick suggestions but I know that there are better alternatives than the current system.  Provide appropriate shepherding for these kids, and we’ll help them achieve professional (athletic or not) and financial success.

Part III.

Lebron has been villainized  for leaving his hometown Cavs and joining the start-studded Heat.  What would you do? Leave a company and even take a paycut for a better chance at long-term success or stay put out of loyalty?  Lebron is judged on championships.  He has now put himself in a position win more championships (his Heat are better than his Cavs).  The Cavs failed to put the right team around him.  His new management has no qualms doing whatever it takes to win.  Would history regard him more favorably if he finished his career with 2 or 3 championships with the Heat or with zero championships with the Cavs?  He would be viewed as loyal, an MVP,  but not as a winner.  Look at Karl Malone.  His career numbers are greater than Tim Duncan’s, but he never won anything and Duncan will be regarded as a better power forward.

I don’t agree with the way Lebron went about his Decision and was alarmed by his lackluster playoff performance against Boston, but he is entitled to his decision.    We don’t have a right to assign the fate of city (Cleveland) to a 26 year old.  He is a superstar athlete, not a civic leader or public servant.   And those who say that he  joined Miami so he didn’t have to play as hard  should note that his numbers are ~95% of where they were last year (an MVP year) while touching the ball far less.