Monday, May 04, 2009


Sports leagues have been trying to clamp down on the drafting of too-young men to play professionally. We expect that any attempt to behave in this cartelized way is defeated by someone outside the cartel taking advantage of either too-high prices for output or too-low prices for the inputs. The NBA not long ago instituted a rule that required players to spend a year after high school graduation before they can be drafted. Thus, for example, Derrick Rose spent a year in college before joining the Chicago Bulls. Having watched him almost destroy my Celtics single-handed (and I agree with Bill Simmons that the only thing that kept him from doing it was his own coach), is there any doubt that the year at the University of Memphis was a transfer of wealth from Rose to Memphis?

One guy has figured out a way not to pay the freight for some university. Meet Jeremy Tyler, a high school junior who is a very gifted 6'11" hoops star:
Tyler... announced that he was going to not only forgo college, but also to skip his senior year of high school, to turn pro. And I'm not talking about the NBA. Tyler is heading to Europe to play professional basketball and is expected to earn a six figure starting salary. His plan is to gain professional experience until he is eligible for the NBA draft in 2011.

On a cost-benefit-analysis, Tyler is making a great decision. He is giving up zero income for his senior year of high school, and missing out on a measly scholarship package (worth approximately $50,000) from the college of his choice, which he certainly doesn't intend to graduate. During those two years, Tyler will earn at least $150,000 more (probably closer to a quarter million) than he would have if he played another year of high school and a year in college -- due to the NBA's rule that you have must sit out one year post-high school. Not to mention the fact that he stands a good chance to improve his pro stock by playing against better talent in international pro ball, as opposed to dominating high school kids, as well as potential paydays from endorsement deals.
If you'd like to see Tyler's talent, he has (like most HS stars) a video of his prowess on YouTube. I'd call that "dominating". He's got feelers from teams in Spain, Italy and Israel. And he and his family have thought this through.

He and his father are bracing for an establishment backlash that fails to appreciate their motivation, determination and appreciation of the intrinsic value of education. They think most of it will be designed to protect the billion-dollar business of amateur basketball.

�It�s just the old way of doing things and no one wants to swallow the pill of change,� [father] James Tyler said. �Basketball is an American sport and they want the kids to go through the channels. And I think there is so much money generated in collegiate sports that they don�t want that interrupted.

�It�s a double standard.�

It's not without risk. The risk of injury is everywhere (and I can't tell you if the medical care Tyler would get in Europe if he was injured would be better or worse than in the States), so the relative risk here is that he cannot hide his shortcomings by playing against weaker competition, since the European professional leagues are largely better.

Keep your eyes out for Brandon Jennings in next month's NBA draft -- he too went to Europe. But at least he played his senior year of high school in the States. If Tyler is successful, Jennings may regret that lost year of income.

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