Mark Cuban Claims D-League Would Be Better Path for Future NBA Players Than NCAA

Chris RolingFeatured ColumnistMarch 1, 2014

USA Today

Outspoken Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban believes that if the NCAA does not change the one-and-done system for college basketball players, the NBA Development League can provide a better environment until elite prospects are eligible to play in the NBA.

Cuban told's Tim MacMahon that nothing current is in the works, but if the collegiate level is unwilling to change, the pro level will by stepping in to help straight-out-of-high-school players with their education while they play in the D-League:

I think what will end up happening -- and this is my opinion, not that of the league -- is if the colleges don't change from the one-and-done, we'll go after the one. The NCAA rules are so hypocritical, there's absolutely no reason for a kid to go [to college], because he's not going to class [and] he's actually not even able to take advantage of all the fun because the first semester he starts playing basketball. So if the goal is just to graduate to the NBA or be an NBA player, go to the D-League.

As it stands now, prospects must be just 18 years old to play in the D-League, but the vast majority opt to play collegiate ball and wait to qualify for the league one year out of high school at the age of 19.

Jan 17, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban yells from the bench in the second half against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center. The Mavericks won 110-107. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sport

Cuban's biggest gripe with this format is that the prospects, particularly the elite who function seemingly as a rental at the collegiate level, jump to the pros without adequate life experience.

For those who intend to just play one year in college before the jump, Cuban wants to see the D-League take steps as a better alternative through a focus on the education and support the NCAA is not allowed to provide:

We can get rid of all the hypocrisy and improve the education. If the whole plan is just to go to college for one year maybe or just the first semester, that's not a student-athlete. That's ridiculous.

You don't have to pretend. We don't have to pretend. A major college has to pretend that they're treating them like a student-athlete, and it's a big lie and we all know it's a big lie. At least at most schools, not all. ... But we can put more of an emphasis on their education. We can plan it out, have tutors. We can do all kinds of things that the NCAA doesn't allow schools to do that would really put the individual first.

Harsh criticisms aside, Cuban seems to have the best interests of the prospects in mind, as part of his hypothetical plan would include "strict policies and rules" to help the young men adapt to their professional lives:

We'd have to make it so where there'd be very strict policies and rules so that, even if you're not going to go to [college] class, there's going be life [skills] classes -- how do you deal with the world? -- and you have to attend those. You have to keep up with those. We'd have very strict [rules] on why you'd be suspended if you didn't live up to them. Things that should be done to student-athletes in college and are just not. Or not always.

The meat of Cuban's argument is that he wants to see the prospects commit to something tangible other than basketball should the game not work out as a career path. Whether this is something related to life skills or academics does not seem to matter—Cuban believes something better than what the NCAA provides its student-athletes can absolutely be obtained through reform.

Bomani Jones was just one of many who agreed with Cuban's hypothetical musings:

Total reform is far from on the table at this point by Cuban's own admission, but something other than what essentially amounts to a public brainstorm may very well be set in motion thanks to his comments.

As someone who supports an age minimum of 21 and three years out of high school, Cuban seems intent on further changes to the system to take the focus away from the financial side of things and bring it back to the prospects themselves.


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