It was the shoe malfunction heard round the world. No matter what Zion Williamson decides to do – and this goes for all college stars – it’s okay.
“Because I think maybe I’ll get up there and I’ll knock on the door and you won’t be there. No goodbye, no see you later, no nothin’. Just left. I don’t know much, but I know that.”
Of course I love college sports.
I was born in a university hospital. I grew up on and around college campuses, lived for college sports, and have worked the last 22 years spending way too much of every waking hour publishing a college football web site.
So yes, in my selfish dream world, I’d love it if college football and basketball players stayed around for all four years.
Of course I’d love a return to the days when future NBA superstars went after the national championship in their senior seasons, and of course it would be amazing if all the top college football players stayed in school for their entire careers.
I love, love, love, these games. But that’s all they are.
They’re entertainment for me, and big business for that elite class of athlete who has dream money just waiting there for the taking. All these guys have to do is not get hurt for a few short months, and they’re rich beyond any reasonable or rational dreams.
The games will still go on with or without Zion Williamson playing his final two months of college basketball – if he decides that leaving now would be his best path.
The 2019 college football season will be a whole lot of fun even though Kyler Murray took off early to be an NFL quarterback.
The machine won’t stop, just like it kept on rolling after Leonard Fournette didn’t play in a bowl game, and Kevin Garnett skipped the the college experience entirely. Why?
Big, big, big business. And there’s the disconnect.
I’m constantly surprised and amazed that so many very smart, very astute sports personalities, writers, talking heads and superfans feel so threatened and get so angry at the mere suggestion that an unpaid kid might want to protect his multi-generational wealth for a GAME.
What is wrong with you people?
It’s as if some who do what I do for a living – and those fans who don’t want anything to yuck their yum – have to assign a noble sense of purpose to a dumb game to justify their own existence.
They put a ball in a hole. They try to tackle the guy with the ball. That’s all it is, and it’s completely and totally awesome. But what’s it to you if the stars want to leave school the second they have their pro futures secured?
So what if Williamson wouldn’t have been Charles Barkley right out of the gate if was able to go to the NBA right out of high school?
Who cares if Sam Darnold isn’t/wasn’t ready yet for the NFL and might need a few years to get up to speed?
What if Trevor Lawrence was able to turn pro out of high school? Would he have stunk in the NFL right away? Of course, but in three years – if he was the real deal – he’d be fantastic after the pro training, coaching, and experience. He’d probably be every bit as good as he’s going to be after serving his three years in college, if not better.
Remember how Pete Carroll suggested that Mark Sanchez might not be quite ready for the NFL? Sanchez didn’t become Tom Brady, but $75 million in career earnings later, so what?
With all that, I totally get it if a college kid with a guaranteed multi-million dollar future wants to stick around. If he feels like there might be a hole in his life if he doesn’t at least go after a Final Four or a College Football Playoff national title, then no amount of money might matter.
Every year around mid-March, LeBron James mentions something about how he wishes he could’ve experienced playing in the NCAA Tournament, and Michael Jordan has always been squishy about how hitting the shot to win the 1982 national title set him on his way to becoming THAT.
If you’re a player who grew up dreaming of doing something magical in college … fantastic. Go have fun. Go enjoy and do whatever it is you want to do and will make you happy. What you don’t want is the college sports equivalent of the Rosebud moment as you clutch your NBA Finals MVP trophy seconds before your last breath.
But at the same time, if you dream of becoming the next LeBron, instead of setting the goal at being the next Tyler Hansbrough or Tim Tebow, then go, go, GO. And if that’s the choice to sit out, we should all celebrate the success.
That includes the adults in the room.
Adults, I’m proud of you for getting past the playing-in-a-bowl thing. I’m proud of you for not generating any real backlash against Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa for cutting his college career short so he can rest up and insure his future multi-million dollar payday after getting hurt.
Now be on the right side of this.
If Zion wants to battle back for a possible national championship run, then yeah, it’ll be awesome. I hope he does, because I want to see it.
But if he chooses to sit out, sign with an agent, and become instantly wealthy enough to be set for ten lifetimes – or at least be able to afford great seats for the next Duke-North Carolina game – that would be terrific, too.