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Kobe Bryant: College basketball ‘really isn’t teaching players anything’

Jan 23, 2014, 12:46 PM EST

USA Men's Basketball Team Scrimmage Against China

Get ready for another round of bickering about whether or not the one-and-done rule should be in place.

“I don’t really look at it from that perspective of what was good for the game of basketball,” Kobe Bryant told reporters when asked about his impact on the NBA as a prep-to-pro player. “I think the reality is there’s been a lot of players who’ve come out of high school. If you do the numbers and you look at the count, you’ll probably see players who came out of high school that were much more successful on average than players who went to college for a year or two or however long.”

“It seems like the system really isn’t teaching players anything, if you go to college. If you go to college, you play, you showcase, and you come to the pros. Well, that’s always been the big argument, as a player you have to go to college, you have to develop your skills and so forth and so on, and then you come to the league. So, we kind of got sold on that dream a little bit. Fortunately, I didn’t really listen much to it. Neither did KG. Neither did LeBron. I think that worked out pretty well for all three of us.”

“I’m always a firm believer in us being able to make our own decisions, especially as it pertains to going out and working and having a job. You should be able to go out there and make your own choices.”

Thanks, Kobe.

This is just what I needed on a Thursday in the heart of conference season. I’m going to break this down into bullet points:

  • Kobe may be a “firm believer” in “being able to make our own decisions”, but it’s the association that he is a member of that has done away with the one-and-done rule. It’s the NBA that instituted the age limit to be eligible for the NBA Draft. You want it changed? Take it up with the people that lose money while 18 year olds sit the bench — marginal NBA players looking for that last roster spot and NBA owners that want to draft NBA ready talent — during future CBA talks.
  • That said, I actually agree with him. I’ve written about it too many times to count so I won’t rehash it all here, but I don’t think it’s right to channel these kids into colleges where they get “paid” with a scholarship that they will never maximize while everyone else (coaches, administrators, NCAA suits, etc.) gets rich off of their exploits. That’s morally wrong.
  • Kobe mentions himself, Kevin Garnett and LeBron as examples of why colleges don’t develop players, three of the best prospects we have seen come through the high school ranks. They were going to be stars regardless of where they played after high school. The same can probably be said for the likes of Kevin Durant and Kevin Love, and, eventually, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid. But would Damian Lillard be one of the best point guards in the NBA without Weber State? Would Steve Nash have been Steve Nash without Santa Clara? Where is Roy Hibbert if he doesn’t spend four years learning at Georgetown? How many top 50ish recruits has Bill Self turned into first round picks? What about Korleone Young or Ousmane Cisse or Leon Smith? Think they could have used a few years on campus?

The bottom-line is this: Elite prospects like Kobe and KG and LeBron were always going to be great. College would have been more-or-less useless for them.

But to dismiss the teaching ability of the coaches at the collegiate level is just stupid.

Kobe’s smarter than that.

  1. timb12 - Jan 23, 2014 at 3:24 PM

    My half sisters neighbor agrees with Kobe!

    But seriously, I’ve thought the same thing about why these guys don’t develop more. It goes back to high school, middle school, etc. Coaches coach to win games. Not develop. There is some teaching done, but they don’t get paid from how many of their players are successful in the NBA, it’s off of how their team performs. If it’s good enough for college, then they’re good.

  2. bballnut50 - Jan 23, 2014 at 9:22 PM

    Talk about BS!! Kobe and others would not have a league to play in if not for College Ball! Basically he and those who do not take advantage of a free education need to look at themselves and quit crying that college ball enjoys a large following. As for being “smarter then that” I think I already answered that question. In terms of using players, signing a rookie contract and being done after one year, with no college degree and no future… guess which league is really using kids??

  3. Norbrook - Jan 25, 2014 at 5:56 PM

    Did Kobe happen to mention any plans for those kids who decided to turn pro right out of high school who don’t make it? What he’s forgotten is that he, and the players he mentioned, are the exceptions, not the rule. I also haven’t noticed that the NBA is big on “teaching the game,” it’s more about “winning” and “sink or swim.”

    Let’s get real, in terms of the current “one and done” candidates, most haven’t been terribly impressive on the court. Potential? Sure, but actual performances have been limited. Which means on pro teams, “bench warmer,” or “optioned to development league.” There are maybe two or three who come out of high school in a given year who would be competitive in the NBA at that point. The teams that take them will also spend a couple of years waiting on them to really develop into their potential, just like Kobe did.

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