So Blake Griffin is ready to make the jump now. The whole thing is nicely wrapped up with a bow for David Stern and Myles Brand, who should be high-fiving, lighting up victory cigars.
The Naismith Award winner, the nation's best college basketball player, is more mature for having stayed at Oklahoma for his sophomore year. He probably worked some education in somewhere, too. So yes, this worked out perfectly for him to jump to the NBA now.
And isn't that, after all, why Stern, the NBA commissioner, put in the rule requiring kids to go to college for a year before turning pro? For the good of the kid?
That's what he says, anyway.
But you might have noticed that Stern and Brand, head of the NCAA, are the biggest winners of all in this. The NBA now gets a ready-marketed and promoted star, rather than some punk high school kid who will sit on a bench for a couple years. Griffin got big pub in the Big 12 tournament and the most thrilling event in sports, the NCAA tournament.
And the NCAA? Well, it got a star for the tournament, which produced killer TV ratings this year, up five percent from last year, according to CBS. A few years ago, college basketball briefly lost importance as the perception was that good players didn't go to college. So Griffin makes the jump now, and Stern and Brand can pitch that as a major success story for their plan.
But the truth is, this is a dirty deal between the NCAA and NBA. And not for 10 seconds should you believe they are in this to help fine young men to mature. They are gaining too much from it, and that's not coincidental. When an 18-year-old decides to start his career, it should not be in the power of the NBA to require him to go to college. It's the best thing for nearly every player, I'm sure. But college doesn't fit everyone. And some players might need the money immediately for themselves and their families.
If that money is available now, maybe it's best for them to take it now.
It might not be there tomorrow.
It doesn't all work out this neatly, or as neatly as it did for North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough, last year's player of the year, who stuck around for all four years of college.
"Coming back, sounds like I made a pretty good decision,"' Hansbrough said Monday night, wearing the net around his neck after Carolina's 89-72 victory over Michigan State in the title game. "Nothing beats this feeling right here."
And on Tuesday, this is what Griffin said: "It's tough to walk away from something like this. But at the same time, it's a big opportunity and I felt like I was ready for it this year."
Griffin made the decision he felt was best for him. Hansbrough did what was right for him. So should every other player.
It's just galling to see Stern get away with something like this, much less be praised for it.
He's a sharp businessman, the best commissioner in pro sports. His interest is, and should be, in making his league strong and rich. But the problem with letting high school kids make the jump was not that they were hurting their lives, or getting into a professional setting before having the maturity for it.
If that were the case, then Stern wouldn't have so happily gone along with the promotion of LeBron James when he made the jump out of high school.
The problem was that NBA teams couldn't control themselves, couldn't fight off signing a player who wasn't ready.
What if he turned out to be the next Kobe?
If the issue was that players weren't ready, then the only thing NBA teams had to do was not draft them. Simple. Instead, NBA teams were sticking themselves with high-priced players who couldn't play for a few years.
So Stern decided to let them grow up on someone else's dime, while being promoted and pre-packaged. Either that, or he was concerned for the well-being of our youth.
But why not just let the NBA's Development League bring players along?
Have you seen the NCAA tournament's ratings?
The NBA's greatest day was celebrated Monday, when Magic Johnson and Larry Bird met for a press conference and talked about the anniversary of their college national championship game 30 years ago. When they went to the NBA, it was the start of the league's mega popularity.
You can't have a game like that if kids go straight from high school to the NBA.
Meanwhile, the NCAA shouldn't go along so easily with this, allowing tax dollars to go players who don't want to be in college in the first place. But hey, the NCAA tournament keeps making more and more money, with a title-game record attendance of 72,922 Monday night.
The ratings keep going up, and the NBA and NCAA are the big winners.
And it's not done in the interest of the right people.
We go along with it, getting a great tournament, and also great success stories such as Hansbrough's and Griffin's.
That doesn't make it right.