Monday, July 14, 2008

August excitement: Not only in Beijing

Although the world will turn its eyes to the Olympics next month, many parents and communities in the U.S. will also be putting their attention on their local football stadiums. High school basketball players will wait for the spotlight -- but not long, and they've already been playing in high-profile, commercialized camps all summer.
I know that the appeal of scholastic sports is in their love-of-the-game, not-corrupted-by-money aura, but one has to question that image in light of the big business they are quickly becoming. Jacob Leibenluft's "Great Basketball Exodus" on, which refers to a senior's decision to go pro in Europe in hopes of then jumping to the NBA, refers to lawyers, "basketball factories," and the prospect of big-dollar contracts for young players as though the are an established part of the high school sports world.
His focus -- on the prospect of NBA hopefuls forgoing college for a Euroleagues, is troubling. He speculates on the media's role in making it more lucrative for teens to go this route. And he doesn't sound far-fetched. After all, as cable nets have focused more on high school sports (cheap programming that can be promoted with media-generated rankings), Leibenluft's suggestion that the nets might follow young players across the Atlantic is plausible. The implications of that for high school sports, the NCAA and the NBA, he argues, are worth pondering.

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