Seriously, how could anyone not like LaVar Ball’s idea of creating a Junior Basketball Association?

The 50-year-old businessman and father of basketball stars Lonzo, LiAngelo and LaMelo Ball recently announced his intentions of creating the JBA, a basketball league designed to serve as an alternative for top high school prospects who aspire to play pro basketball but do not want to go to college. According to Ball, the JBA will feature approximately 80 players divided over eight teams and will pay them up to $10,000 per month as they prepare for the NBA. 

FILE – In this July 7, 2017, file photo, LaVar Ball, father of Los Angeles Lakers’ Lonzo Ball and UCLA player LiAngelo Ball, watches the Lakers play the Los Angeles Clippers during an NBA summer league basketball game, in Las Vegas. President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday, Nov. 19, that he should have left three UCLA basketball players, including LiAngelo Ball, accused of shoplifting in China in jail after LaVar Ball minimized Trump’s involvement in winning the players’ release during an interview Saturday, Nov. 18, with ESPN. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

“There is no need to partake in an institution that claims its purpose is not to help you prepare for your professional career,” Ball said in a statement to Slam magazine.

Ball’s comments come on the heels of a recent statement from NCAA President Mark Emmert regarding the withdrawal of LiAngelo Ball from UCLA, in favor of playing pro basketball overseas.

“Is this a part of someone being part of your university as a student-athlete or is it about using college athletics to prepare yourself to be a pro?” Emmert said. “If it’s the latter, you shouldn’t be there in the first place.”

For the AFRO’s part: we agree!

For decades, the NCAA has run a business that has exploited thousands of teens, and college institutions, coaches, media conglomerates, and corporate sponsors have all profited from the model.

The proposed JBA is a long-awaited solution to this ongoing problem.

Sounds like a great idea, right? Literally everything about it sounds golden, especially if you support African-American empowerment. Here’s a proud Black man not only placing himself in a position of influence and power by founding a professional sporting league, but also putting many other young Black men in position to earn wages for their skills and talents. 

You can’t get any more empowering than that.

The only question is, can he pull it off? Will LaVar be able to even attract 80 players to sign up for his league, let alone afford to pay them?  

Funding shouldn’t be an issue as Ball has proven to be an effective businessman with the ability to raise money for his Big Baller Brand ventures. It also doesn’t hurt that his eldest son, Lonzo, just signed a $33 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers this summer.

The greatest challenge Ball will face is recruiting talent away from the NCAA to fill his league. College basketball coaches earn million-dollar salaries for their ability to attract and recruit top tier prospects. LaVar’s league will have to compete with those coaches. But the recruiting advantage Ball has is that he can pay these young kids real money and won’t have to lie or keep it a secret to avoid NCAA violations. The top guys in the JBA could make roughly $80,000 in salary per season, and that’s not including any endorsement deals they may be able to earn based on their own individual brand and popularity.

Remember that many college basketball players today develop their own stardom using social media platform. But they are forbidden from cashing in on their brand with endorsements because the NCAA has outlawed it. That alone should encourage at least a handful of the top high school basketball prospects to consider the proposed Junior Basketball Association, rather than the “one and done” college route most players take.

Just imagine former No. 1 overall pick Derrick Rose, who was drafted in 2008 out of Memphis University. Rose was probably good enough to enter the NBA right out of high school, but because the NBA requires you to be at least 19 years old or play at least one year in college, Rose took the “one and done” route at Memphis. It was later revealed that Rose allegedly had to cheat on his SATs to get into Memphis, and because he took improper benefits as an NCAA student-athlete, the university was forced to vacate the entire season that he played for them.  

Now imagine if Rose had the option to enter the JBA instead of college. Imagine if he had the choice to go pro right out of high school and make real money with his god-given talents without feeling like he’s breaking any sacred amateur rules.  

That’s a choice that, for some reason, all of the predominantly White sports seem to offer their players. Play a “White sport” like tennis, golf or baseball and you can become a pro whenever your heart desires. Tennis and golf pros often start their professional careers during their teenage years, and Major League Baseball is always recruiting players fresh out of high school. But play a predominantly Black sport like basketball or football, and you have to wait a few years to make some money.   

We’ve had just about enough of that, and it seems like LaVar has, too. It appears somebody finally has the balls to at least try do something about it.

Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor