Jayson Tatum Discusses If He'd Have Joined G League over Playing for Duke

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistMay 11, 2020

GREENVILLE, SC - MARCH 19:  Jayson Tatum #0 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts in the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Bon Secours Wellness Arena on March 19, 2017 in Greenville, South Carolina.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum admitted the prospect of signing a $500,000 contract to join the NBA G League might have been enough to lure him away from Duke prior to entering the NBA.

During an appearance on Showtime's All The Smoke, Tatum said he would've made the same decision with the benefit of hindsight, but at the time he was leaving high school, the G League would've been tempting:

"It's tough because knowing what I know now, I think I still might have went to Duke. But if you just rewind four years and I'm 18 coming out of high school from St. Louis and there's $500,000, I'm going right to the G League, for sure. ... They need to change in college. I think you should be able to make money off your likeness."

The G League first announced its "comprehensive professional path" for players graduating from high school in October 2018. Starting with the 2019-20 season, prep players could sign a $125,000 contract and start a one-year training process to prepare for the NBA draft.

The alternative to the college route didn't take off until the G League upped the financial ante.

ESPN's Jonathan Givony and Adrian Wojnarowski reported Jalen Green was signing a deal worth "$500,000-plus." It was a shot across the bow of college basketball writ large since Green is the No. 2 overall player in 247Sports' composite rankings for 2020.

Daishen Nix (No. 13) and Isaiah Todd (No. 27) have since joined Green.

The NCAA announced in April its Board of Governors "supported rule changes to allow student-athletes to receive compensation for third-party endorsements both related to and separate from athletics."

That represents a step toward allowing student-athletes to pursue endorsement deals and capitalize financially on their names, likenesses and images, but the approval and implementation process is far from over.

Many presume top athletes earn money under the table, with the FBI's investigation into college basketball shedding some light on the role coaches and company executives play in funneling money to players or family members.

As Tatum alluded to, however, $500,000 would be tough to turn down. The development of Green, Nix and Todd will also speak to the value of receiving guidance from professional coaches and former NBA players compared to what a year in college provides.