It’s the Marketing, Stupid

It’s Final Four time, and as we see every year, the pundits are talking about which kids will go pro—many after one year. As such, the NBA’s one-and-done rule—you have to be a year removed from your high school graduation to be draft eligible, which pushes kids into college—is being rehashed again.

Here’s what gets me: why does no one ever talk about the main reason that you push kids into one year of college, which is that the TV coverage at the college level is far and above what is at the high school level? With the one-and-done rule in place, the NBA draft is now something where a casual fan can tune in and know two-thirds of the players. Before the rule, the NBA draft was beginning to come to be dominated by foreign players and high school kids, all drafted on potential. Sure, lots of those guys panned out, and lots flamed out—like any draft. But the big thing is, today we know who the players are.

Consider the upcoming draft. We know who Derrick Rose is. We know Michael Beasley. We’ve even endlessly debated whether Kevin Love is a legit NBA starter or a 7th man who works into your frontcourt rotation. None of this would have happened without the one-and-done rule.

It’s the best marketing thing the NBA has done in years. These kids get a smaller stage to shine on, another year of maturity, and a better quality of basketball than the level they just dominated. The kids get to wait a year, but … so? Name another profession other than “professional athlete” where the kid has six-figure skills, much less seven- or eight-figure skills, at 18. Go ahead. I’m waiting.

It’s the marketing, stupid.