Brandon Jennings has made history. Now.

Brandon JenningsJennings’ move reminds us of
Dolly King in ’41.

He’s the #1 ranked high school basketball player who could have played in the N.B.A. if it weren’t for the league’s artificial age limit.

He’s the Dominguez High School and Oak Hill Academy product from Compton, Ca., who could have played unpaid for the N.C.A.A. (he had declared for Arizona) for a year before entering the N.B.A. Draft.

He’s the McDonald’s All-American who, as a student-athlete, could have risked his college eligibility and reputation by accepting tempting unauthorized payments from any one of dozens of dollar-waving people along a money-gauntlet that promising college athletes must run through but are supposed to ignore.

Instead, this week, Jennings opted to play professionally in Europe. Reports said he hadn’t passed the standardized entrance exams necessary to qualify academically.

I’m really happy for him.

He’s going to get an education in life. He’s going to meet new and different people who speak different languages. He’s going to experience new and different cultures and religions and geography. In politics, he’s going to see America from different perspectives, in which our country isn’t always at the center of every single headline.

Hey, wait a minute! Isn’t that what college is all about?

If you recall from my previous post, some of the doubters thought that no Euro team owner would bother signing a high schooler for just one year.

But I felt it would be the exact opposite, not only because Jennings is such a media and promotion savvy young man (check out his fan site) but also because of the sheer talent and highlight-reel attractiveness. European fans will eat this up.

I wouldn’t be surprised if, as a trend, Euro owners decide to up the ante, after that first year is up thus in effect competing against the N.B.A. or forcing the league to buy out their player contracts. Thus Jennings, and others that follow, could accept a 2nd year (or more) offer and still be eligible for the N.B.A. draft whenever they feel like returning from their European vacation.

What’s wrong with that?

Henry Abbot of TrueHoop has a good summary of the pros and cons of the move, and the people involved behind the scenes:

Jonathan Givony is, in addition to the guy who runs DraftExpress, a consultant who advises several European teams on things like which American players to sign and for how much.

Givony says he can’t see a top European club offering Jennings more than $100,000. “He’s not strong enough and he’s not experienced enough to run an elite club. He has a world of talent, and he’ll be unbelievable down the road, but experience trumps athleticism and talent every day in European basketball,” explains Givony. “I’d be very surprised if a top team offered him more than $100,000, at most, but stranger things have happened. Jerome Moiso just had his best year ever, and averaged seven points a game. He just signed a huge deal in Russia.”

But, this is precisely why I’m not so sure Jennings is doing this only for the money. Why do we always assume everyone is only about the cash?

Jason Whitlock, in his column on the topic, had this surprisingly biting commentary:

Why are we playing along? Why are we demonizing kids for an insanely stupid set of rules created by adults?

O.J. Mayo isn’t the bad guy. Neither is Brandon Jennings, or the other five-star recruits wise enough to follow him for a year of basketball study abroad. Rich kids do it all the time. They take a semester or two, move to Europe, party, study and broaden their perspective.

A 19-year-old from Europe can join the NBA without anyone objecting. But a teenager from the states who hasn’t spent a year masquerading as a college student and justifying CBS’s billion-dollar NCAA basketball package is forbidden from joining the NBA.

Why?

Whitlock usually comes out for the “establishment” but instead tells it like it is and recognizes, as most do, the historic proportions:

Maybe Brandon Jennings will go down in history as the young man who forced the NCAA to honestly deal with the hypocrisy, stupidity and immorality of its rules.

Right on, Jason! (Although you forgot to add the N.B.A. into that last sentence.)

Lang Whitaker of SLAM is ambivalent:

However this works out, I am glad to see a player taking a chance, doing something out of the ordinary.

I just wish I didn’t have this nagging feeling that maybe this isn’t the best idea.

Things have come a long way and basketball is definitely heading towards what some would call a “shift in power.”

Dolly KingWilliam “Dolly” King.

This move reminds me of the time in 1941 when superstar William “Dolly” King opted to leave his undefeated Long Island University basketball team mid-season (L.I.U. went on the win the National Invitational Tournament, before they had an N.C.A.A. tourney) in order to play for the New York Rens all-black professional basketball team … since the racially-segregated pro hoops leagues of that time weren’t going to draft him anyway.

To use Whitlock’s words, King exposed the “hypocrisy, stupidity and immorality” then too, in a history-making move.

He also just did what he had to do.

That’s the same reason I applaud Jennings.

He’s creating his own reality.

He’s opting to make history now.

(Jennings photo courtesy of BrandonJennings.net)