Today’s topic is G League and high school prospects. Recently, the number 1 and number 13 high school prospects have chosen to forego college basketball to sign with the G League. This could be a seismic shift in the world of college basketball and maybe college sports.
The story highlights an important component of sports and sports analytics that people don’t think enough about. The rules of the games largely determine how leagues, teams and players behave.
I believe that the “one and done” rule doomed college basketball. College basketball used to be place where players could develop both skills and fanbases. In other words, when Michael Jordan arrived at the Chicago Bulls facility, he was already a brand name. We used to see season ticket sales spike all the time based on draft picks. Playing multiple years in college also provided more information to teams, which made drafting and investing in a player less risky.
But “one and done” changes the landscape. Under the one and done system, players play 30 games against lesser talent and then declare for the draft. This means that brands aren’t developed and uncertainty about skills is unresolved.
It also means there is an opportunity. The G League provides an opportunity for the NBA to take ownership of the skill development and brand development. It also provides some interesting programming features for the NBA's partner ESPN.
Zion Williamson playing at Duke is a high profile event. However, Zion Williamson playing for an NBA affiliated G League franchise and signing a lucrative shoe deal is a marketer’s dream.
The surprising thing is that it took this long.
In this podcast episode, Mike and Doug discuss how Jalen Green's decision to forgo college in favor of the NBA G League may signify the NCAA's last dance with top basketball prospects. Then, Mike delves into the marketing significance of sports narratives as Doug recaps the first 2 episodes of ESPN's new Michael Jordan docuseries: 'The Last Dance.'