Monday, June 15, 2009

Bryce Harper: Doing The Right Thing

So first there was Kevin Garnett, skipping college for the NBA. Last year there was Brandon Jennings, who skipped college to play pro in Europe the mandatory enforced one-year exile from the NBA before he was draft eligible.

A few weeks ago, Jeremy Tyler did that one better, skipping his final season of high school to play pro not only for what would have been his senior season, but also that mandatory one-year-out ban from the NBA.

And now here's Bryce Harper, most recently of the cover of Sports Illustrated as baseball's LeBron. Having just finished his high school sophomore year, he would not have been eligible for the MLB Draft until 2011. But instead, he's going to junior college and will be eligible for the 2010 MLB Draft... where he will be the No. 1 overall pick and make roughly $30 million dollars in his first deal. So let's not talk about "readiness."

Of course, because it's baseball -- or, perhaps, because baseball lacks the overreaching (and implicitly discriminatory) paternalism of the NBA -- we will get a "Oh, wow, isn't that wild!" and "What a smart kid, to work the system like that!" He will be lauded even more as we countdown to the 2010 draft, in which he will be the No. 1 overall pick and make millions instantly.

Compare that to Greg Oden, who similarly would have been the No. 1 overall pick of the NBA Draft after his junior -- perhaps even sophomore -- year of high school. But he had to go to high school for that senior year. Then he was forced to go to college for a year. Thanks to those two years, he developed injuries that have dramatically slowed or altered his NBA potential, not to mention restrained him from the financial reward that the market would have been ready to show him.

Good for Bryce Harper. And it is one more example of the ridiculous hypocrisy that exists between MLB and the NBA. And, with the launch of the iHoops initiative and the NBA Draft just two weeks away, let's spend some time talking about how to fix the NBA development pipeline.

Oh, by the way, Brandon Jennings is doing just fine: He is a lock for the Top 10 of the draft and spent his weekend trash-talking Ricky Rubio and schooling Johnny Flynn -- who was, by the end of last season, the best point guard in college basketball.

-- D.S.

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