Marcus Wells, who just finished playing as the point guard for Winston-Salem State, talks about his overall game, his prospects for the future in pro basketball and what playing at WSSU has meant to him.
Archive for the ‘ sports business ’ Category
Michael Jordan gently discusses an issue with the ref
By Marcus Shockley
If you haven’t heard about Mike Rice, the head coach of Rutgers men’s basketball team and his abuse of his players during practice, you can catch up with the video below. Needless to say, Mike Rice should be fired – under no circumstances is this acceptable behavior for anyone, child or adult. I would go so far as to say that the fact that the Athletic Director didn’t fire Rice immediately should be concern about the AD as well.
But one issue that this raises is that many sports pundits have taken to the idea that in order to be great in sports, either as a player or a coach, you have to be a megalomaniac, completely absorbed in your own desires and focused only on yourself, to the point of complete disregard for anyone else in any capacity.
The popular icon of this is Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time, who also became one of the biggest egos of all time; it has become commonplace to refer to any dysfunctional or abusive behavior as ‘what is required’ in order to be legendary. Several players are said to have this ‘winning’ attitude: Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods and Serena Williams have all been described in such terms.
But it’s not true.
There is a common phrase used in the field of statistics whenever a theory is introduced based on only a few variables: “Correlation does not imply causation”. To put this in plain English, just because you have a couple of examples of something occurring does not make it true for all cases, or even true in general.
There are some things that hold true; fierce competitiveness, focus and a strong discipline are all factors of every legendary player. Many pro players are stunted emotionally because as they’ve worked like mad at their sport, outside of sports they are handed many things for most of their life.
But there are plenty of examples of players who won – a lot – and weren’t crushing people with their ego along the way.
Jackie Robinson, the focus of a new movie about how he broke the color barrier in baseball, was such an example. Think Robinson wasn’t as great as Kobe? Consider that Jackie Robinson was so good that he forced racist business owners to completely change their beliefs; forced their hand because they would rather go against hundreds of years of cultural and societal taboos rather than pass on his talent.
But even today there are tons of examples of superstar athletes who aren’t preening egomaniacs – Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Roger Federer and Kelly Slater all have lengthy careers – all would be HOF or the equivalent in their sport – and none have the supposed burning self-love that is claimed to be a prerequisite to greatness.
Let us not forget how many jerks we run into, in all walks of life, every single day. People cut each other off in traffic; push ahead of each other in line at grocery stores; steal office supplies; start rumors about each other; cheat on their spouses. The vast majority of those people behave like jackasses a lot, some of them to the point of ruining their marriages and careers. Their behavior certainly doesn’t make them legendary.
The simple truth is this: if someone is a legendary player and behaves like a jackass, they are just a jerk who is also good at their sport. They are not great because they are a jerk. If being a jackass made people great, our world would be teeming with amazingly talented people on every street corner.
Go ahead an nod along, you know I’m right. There are plenty of untalented knuckleheads in the world.
So, let’s call it what it is when people have dysfunctional, anti-social behavior instead of dressing it up and dismissing it as a quality. Kobe Bryant is a great player, but he’s also a jackass. Michael Jordan was the greatest player, and he is also a jackass. Let’s not confuse the two.
And Mike Rice? Yeah, well, there’s really no question what he is.
Marcus Shockley is the founder of BasketballElite.com and a member of the US Basketball Writers Association. You can follow Marcus on Twitter right this second.
Photo Source: CBS
By Marcus Shockley
A recent article in the Charlotte Observer tells of some NBA scouts who think the Bobcats should trade whichever pick they have this year, as it’s expected to once again be in the lottery.
It’s an interesting phenomenon that has emerged ever since players starting entering the NBA draft right out of high school, which has now become the parade of ‘one-and-done’ players into the pros, that players who are projected as NBA superstars start playing games at the college level, their draft status often drops. Last season in AAU it was quite common to hear that Shabazz Muhammad was one of the best players on the planet even though he was still in high school, but now halfway through his freshman season, he’s considered to be ‘flawed and inexperienced’.
James Michael McAdoo of UNC has seen similar changes to his draft status, after a season where he’s struggled to establish himself as a consistent first option for his team. Nerlens Noel was incredibly hyped during the recruiting process before he committed to Kentucky, now still considered a lottery pick but not the lock that many had claimed.
As I open this month’s ESPN ‘Next’ magazine, in which they attempt to project who the next big stars will be in several sports, they have decided against selecting another high school phenom and went with Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving, who was a one-and-done college player for Duke, but is now in his second season in the pros. However, in the comments of the article, people pile in to tell ESPN that they have it wrong, and that the ‘next’ phenom is Andrew Wiggins, the star player for Huntington Prep in the class of 2013. One reader says ‘just watch a mixtape of Andrew Wiggins and he’ll blow your mind’.
I’m not saying Wiggins won’t be a pro and he’s a very talented high school player. But let’s wait on the accolades until he’s proven he can at least compete against collegiate talent.
This is part of the problem. I’m not sure if it’s the SportsCenter Top 10 influence, but people get fooled by highlights. They see a sixth grader scoring like crazy in a video and they immediately project the kid into the next Michael Jordan.
Is the 2013 NBA draft weak on talent? Not really, but what scouts are really saying is that it’s weak on potential superstars. Players like Cody Zeller and Otto Porter are considered NBA talent, but not “franchise” players. One issue I have with that is that those players hardly ever come along, no matter how much talent is supposedly in the draft. Another issue is that it seems like projecting superstardom is something scouts and fans love to do, but rarely get correct. As I write this, the 2014 mock NBA draft from NBADraft.net has the top 6 projected picks currently in high school. That’s become commonplace, but it’s also become commonplace that by the time those players are eligible for the draft, most of them will not be ranked that high.
Want to know more? You can follow Marcus Shockley on Twitter right this second.
By Marcus Shockley
As the Northeastern United States digs out from under the massive devastation of Hurricane Sandy, people look for ways to prevent the pain and mayhem caused by storms like this. While it may be possible to one day control the weather, in times of desperation people will start grasping at wild ideas, such as the concept of trying to stop a Hurricane by nuking it that comes up whenever there is a massive storm that lashes our coasts.
While the idea of trying to stop a massive force of nature with a “massive force of man” is an idea that is laughable from a nuclear perspective, it has become reality for the NBA under David Stern’s tenure.
David Stern recently announced his retirement as NBA commissioner, effective in 2014. Stern has ruled over the NBA for almost 30 years and has done serious damage to the league and its overall on-court product, and it’s not clear if his successor will be able to rectify it.
Is David Stern the worst commissioner in the history of sports? No.
Has he done some good things? Yes.
Is he a good commissioner? No.
Under David Stern, the NBA diverted its entire marketing force to promote individuals over teams, a direct departure from every other team sport in existence, and diametrically opposed to the model created by the NFL under Paul Tagliabue, who many, including myself, consider to be greatest commissioner who has presided over any sport thus far. Tagliabue turned football into the financial and popular juggernaut that it is today, and one key element of the NFL is that fans root for teams, not individual players. Sure, they love their players as long as they are wearing the team uniform, but Indianapolis Colts fans did not flock to root for Denver when their beloved Peyton Manning was traded to the Mile High City. Fans of NFL teams root for their favorite team, and while some fans might change teams, it’s rare and it’s not because of where the players are going. An added business caveat to this: injuries, while unfortunate, do not normally diminish the immediate value of an NFL franchise.
This concept, which is used effectively in college sports, worldwide soccer and even the poorly managed Major League Baseball, creates more valuable teams, a more loyal fanbase and vast financial power for the league as a whole. It’s exactly the opposite of what David Stern has done.
Over the past 30 years, David Stern has effectively made moves that have created an NBA that is entirely focused on the marketability of individual players and that has grown revenue by some amount, but also created a fragile economy for the sport, limited parity and created an environment where it’s more important to have one ‘star’ player than it is to make the playoffs consistently.
The biggest issue today is that the only way for small-market or mid-market teams to succeed in today’s NBA is to get your hands on one of the few superstars in the league – such as Oklahoma City or San Antonio did with Kevin Durant and Tim Duncan respectively – and hope they don’t leave as soon as they really hit their professional peak (as Dwight Howard and Lebron James have done). Once a team like the Boston Celtics or Miami Heat manage to lure three superstars to their team, the only way for another team to compete with them is to send an equal or greater force against them, much like attempting to nuke a hurricane.
There are several reasons for this, but the most egregious is how stars get more beneficial calls than other players, and the lack of true zone defenses is designed to allow the stars more points. As an example, Shaquille O’Neal, one of the most gifted centers to play in the NBA, was allowed to charge his way to the basket, knocking his opponent to the floor, and it was rarely called. Considering Shaq’s impressive physical skills, this gave him an incredible, nearly insurmountable advantage in the post that other teams could not contend with. The result? Four NBA championships for O’Neal and his teams. Now, this is not to say O’Neal could not have won titles even if the games were called fairly, but giving a player of his ability that kind of advantage is exactly what David Stern had in mind. He’s repeated this pattern for years, and it’s created players who are far too powerful. The fans follow the players – if Lebron leaves Miami for Charlotte (won’t happen), suddenly there will be a rash of new Charlotte Bobcats fans and an exodus of Miami Heat fans. This creates a fragile economy for the sport – if Lebron is injured, the Miami Heat suddenly have significantly less fans, as the Chicago Bulls found out last season when Derrick Rose went down with an ACL injury.
This focus on the individual players has stymied economic parity and growth in the NBA. It’s not currently possible for a team to be competitive in the NBA without loading up on ‘name’ players who will get the benefits of being stars. Are you a fan of the Wizards, Cavaliers, Hawks, Orlando or any of a dozen other teams without a group of stars? You’re out of luck. You’re team’s not contending this year or any year in the near future. The NBA still suffers from the image that there are ‘favored’ teams, something very few people believe about the NFL.
I don’t know if Adam Silver will correct these problems, but it’s definitely fixable. It’s a problem built over 30 years of misguided marketing, where individual player shoe releases make more noise than some of the teams in the league.
Terry Martin, a forward who played collegiality at Wofford College, talks about his experience during his tryout for the D-League and what his options are to play pro basketball overall.
Brian Levy, Assistant GM for the Bakersfield Jam of the NBA D-League, offers some great insight into how players can work their way onto a pro roster, as well as what makes the D-League a viable option over European leagues.
By Marcus Shockley
Back in 1995, before anyone really had heard of actor Giovanni Ribisi, he broke through with a stellar performance on ‘The X-Files’, where he portrayed a teenager who develops the ability to control electricity. Ribisi doesn’t use his newfound abilities to fight crime or change the world, however; he uses it to turn stoplights green at the same time just so he can see car accidents and giggle. Ribisi’s portrayal of the ‘pulling wings off of flies’ personality launched his career and probably resonated because of it’s accuracy in displaying the type of idiocy that we are all too familiar with.
Unfortunately, the world has far too many knuckleheads like Ribisi’s character.
On Sunday, Kansas City Chiefs QB Matt Cassel was knocked out of the game against the Ravens with a concussion. As Cassel regained consciousness and was aided off of the field, some of the fans – home field fans of the Chiefs – gleefully cheered Cassel’s injury:
Cassel remained on his back for several minutes while fans began to cheer. He eventually got to his feet with some help and walked off the field under his own power.
This type of behavior by adults – or anyone, for that matter – is not acceptable. I actually heard people defending this by saying they ‘pay their money’ for tickets and they ‘can do whatever they want’. No, they can’t. There’s nothing on a ticket that says buying one gives you freedom that isn’t allowed in normal society. I was in 100% agreements with the articulate comments of Kansas City Chief tackle Eric Winston, who leveled criticism at the booing fans:
“…when you cheer somebody getting knocked out, I don’t care who it is, and it just so happened to be Matt Cassel — it’s sickening. It’s 100 percent sickening. I’ve been in some rough times on some rough teams, I’ve never been more embarrassed in my life to play football than in that moment right there.”
While several media members applauded Winston’s comments, I was a little bothered by them repeatedly saying that fans were claiming to be “justified” in their actions. The annoyance I have is with the word “justify”. These fans are not justified in the actions under any circumstances. What they are doing is rationalizing their behavior.
They rationalize because deep down, they know, just as we all know, what they did was wrong. There’s no excuse; save it, I don’t want to hear it. We all know that if you cheered for a player injury, you shouldn’t have done it and you have no right to do it. You can’t look yourself in the mirror and honestly tell yourself that you think that’s how someone should behave.
Now, in the basketball recruiting world, scouts and coaches are constantly telling kids about ‘character’. While that can fall into an ambiguous description, we expect potential college basketball players to be decent individuals. Scouts, media and coaches will rave to each other about players who are intelligent and get good grades. They will tweet about staying focused and putting in work. All of this is coming from adults trying to combat the very real underbelly of recruiting and sports in general; also, it is an attempt to offer encouragement to young people who don’t know how hard work really will pay off and might otherwise become discouraged.
So when adults pull stunts like they did on Sunday, it flies in the face of all of that ‘character’ talk. It also shows that there are many people – in this case thousands – who will join in on unacceptable behavior when given the chance. Mob mentality is a very real thing, but some people don’t need a mob to feel entitled to do horrible things – they just need an excuse. It’s despicable and it also means that they are teaching their own kids to do the same thing.
That’s why we have to stand up as a society and not coddle these people. They shouldn’t be allowed to rationalize their behavior. We should be calling them out for what they are.
It’s wrong to cheer because someone gets injured. Don’t do it.
Don’t throw bottles on the court or the field.
Don’t drink yourself silly and then brawl with other people in the stands.
You didn’t know that? Well you do know. It’s wrong. Don’t claim no one ever spelled it out for you.
Don’t be a knucklehead.
By Marcus Shockley
The NBA has instituted fines for ‘flopping’, which is when a player fakes taking an offensive foul. This is an excellent move by the NBA, and the best move the NBA has made since it instituted the age limit. It’s one of the top issues that needed be addressed in order to not only return consistency to the game but to start eliminating the overriding attitude that NBA games are ‘fixed’ for some teams.
The concept of flopping as it exists today in the NBA actually started at the college level. Coaches with less athletic defenders would teach their players to take the charge instead of going for the block and fouling. This, by itself, is not a bad strategy. By definition, a ‘charge’ is an offensive foul, meaning, the player on offense has taken an unfair physical advantage in the game. Technically, a player banging in the post shoving his defender to the floor is also guilty of an offensive foul. However, what we’ve become used to is when a player has the ball and is pushing to the basket, and the defender stands his ground, gets knocked to the floor, and an offensive foul is called.
Pretty simple, right?
Well, there’s that little bit about whether the offensive player actually got an advantage or whether the defensive player stepped in and cut off his path to the basket with a trip. That’s when the replays start trying to show whether the defender ‘moved his feet’ or whether he ‘got there in time’. The reality was that it was extremely difficult to take a charge unless a defender had clearly established position well in advance.
And that’s when things got ugly.
Some coaches at the college level took advantage of this; even if it seemed obvious that their player was late to take a charge, they would berate the officials until some calls started going the other way. Eventually, the concept of a ‘block or a charge’ became almost entirely a judgement call – no longer a clear cut choice where the offensive player had the benefit of the doubt. Some players would be called for offensive fouls simply because they were not national names, while others had much more free reign because of the name on the front of their jersey. The players who grew up in this system learned to make this an art form – flailing their arms emphatically or yelling out to attract attention as they threw themselves to the floor.
It shouldn’t be part of the game. It’s something that basketball fans have always hated, and when someone like Lebron James obviously flops, sports fans can only shake their heads in disgust. It’s seen as cheating because the actual rules define the play much differently than it is called.
So the NBA has implemented two solid changes which will continue to improve their product on the floor. Now if they would just raise that age limit at least one more year and shorten the season, they could actually see ratings that would allow more of their teams to turn a profit.
This week on The Hoops Show, we are talking about social media what athletes and colleges need to understand about interacting in a connected digital world. Guest this week is Shanna Bright, CEO of Beaming Bohemian.
By Marcus Shockley
If you are a high school basketball players, odds are almost certain that you’re not going to be an NBA player.
There are 30 NBA franchises currently in existence. That means in a world of almost 7 billion people, there are a total of about 360 that will play in the NBA this coming season. Sure, a few guys will get called up from the D-League after some of those 360 players get injured, but the number is pretty close. That’s roughly the same number of people who are struck by lightning – literally – in the United States each year.
Even more so, the average career in the NBA is incredibly short. As of 2010, the average NBA player lasted 6 seasons. That means if a player played four years of college, by the time they are 28, they are most likely done with pro ball unless they hop overseas to scrounge out a few more years.
Yet, there are thousands of high school players who are not just trying to get a college basketball scholarship, but hoping to make it all the way to the pro level. Twitter is awash in players who proudly pronounce that they are chasing the NBA dream on their profiles, and AAU teams are well-stocked with players who all think they have a legitimate shot at getting a call on some future draft night.
Wealthy entrepreneur MJ DeMarco once wrote about what causes this kind of phenomenon, whether it takes the form of athletes trying to land that short-lived big paycheck or the thousands of people who flock to audition for American Idol, despite having almost zero chance of success. It is a culture uneducated in what it takes to achieve long-term success, and lacking that education, has become enamored with “events, over process”. To put it another way: people see someone get a huge paycheck when they are a number one draft pick, but no one sees the years of work, combined with some luck, that went into the player arriving at that payday. It’s the same principle that has created thousands of people who never save a dime but seriously see the lottery as the ticket to their financial future. Even if a player has the natural athletic ability to build towards a professional career, and even if that player works hard every single day to achieve that goal, there is still a strong chance that they won’t ever get that payday. Eli and Payton Manning have a brother, Cooper, who by some accounts was a better athlete than either of them, but was diagnosed with spinal stenosis, ending any chance of a pro or college career.
So why bring this up? Is it to dash young players’ dreams with a hard dose of reality?
Actually, it’s because I see far too much focus for players on getting that ‘event’ win without realizing that there are other options, and even if you are one of the fortunate few who might get that huge payday some day, you absolutely must have a plan for when your career is over. Most players who played pro ball in the 1980s are now broke, or close to it. Soon that will be true for the players of 90s as well. I’ve written about this fact before and related it to lottery winners, most of whom blow their entire lottery winnings in a few short years. As a side note, whenever I have written about this in the past, someone will often write to me and demand that I prove my assertions with hard data (despite the fact that I have previously cited the studies and data), but the truth is, no matter what the evidence, there are always going to be people who don’t get it. Most people are bad with money; suddenly having more money doesn’t magically make you a financial wizard.
The point is, don’t bank on an event that suddenly makes you rich for the rest of your life, and realize that the odds of getting to the NBA or any pro league are incredibly, incredibly high. Think about what you will do once your playing career is over, and consider what you might do if you were no longer involved in sports in any way. That should give some direction to your decisions.
The hardest part about all of this information is that it should be obvious, but people ignore it. Less than 1% of college players – far less – get to the NBA at all. These numbers are not hidden. If you are seriously pursuing a college career as an athlete, you must realize that the first goal is to get a free or reduced-cost education that you can use in the future, NOT to just keep playing ball until you find yourself on some pro team awash in big money.