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  1. #1
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    The one less traveled by

    Suppose there is a college basketball player who is good enough to be one of the top three chosen in the lottery, if not the first. He reads http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/mor...e50/index.html and sees all the endorsement earnings of the superstar athletes but concludes that while he’ll be a solid player in the NBA he probably will not become a superstar there. However, he thinks that he might be able to achieve superstar status (and therefore hefty endorsement contracts) a different way.

    He decides that if he stays in college he will be able to rise to the superstar level as a big fish in a little pond: everyone else good enough to go pro has gone pro, putting him head and shoulders above the remaining college players. By staying in college and putting on dazzling performances for a team that is a national champion contender he figures that he will get much more national attention than he would have gotten in three years in the NBA, especially if he leads his team to one or more national championships. His presence on the team also will help recruiting, increasing the championship possibilities as well as the attention focused on the team. He will try to maximize his national media exposure by speaking and doing work on behalf of popular causes.

    Also suppose that he is the kind of person whom companies want as a representative: articulate, squeaky clean personal life, likable, engaging. How likely is it that this approach would generate additional endorsement income over the course of his life at least equal to the three years of player salary that he gave up to stay in college? How important should it be to his decision that this form of income is more stable in that it tends to continue even if he stops playing because of injury?

    Should a player with significant talent think of this as a legitimate alternative route – building up star power in college which probably would not have been available to him had he started from scratch in the NBA (especially if (a) he might sit idle a large part of his first year in the NBA because of a labor dispute, and (b) he wanted a college degree for other reasons)?

  2. #2
    If this is about Kyrie -- it seems like it is? -- he has as good a chance as any to be a star in the NBA.

    But to address the rest of it, what a player does in college doesn't affect their national profile most of the time after they leave, except for very special cases -- such as Laettner perpetually making commercials alluding to his shot against Kentucky. Jay Williams mostly has his college career to hang his hat on, and his congenial nature and college greatness almost certainly has propelled his broadcasting career, but that probably still would have been true had he left a year (or two) early.

    Other than that, players who are figureheads on the college level but aren't necessarily good enough to be stars in the NBA don't really achieve a high national profile. This has been proven many times over.

    Battier and Hansbrough come to mind as players who were college superstars and were basically forgotten about. Battier, in particular, has had a very solid NBA career, and true fans of the game know about his value. (Especially if they read the Michael Lewis piece on him). But he's generally not thought about by the casual fan. Redick is sort of in the same boat.
    Last edited by Starter; 02-20-2011 at 01:06 PM.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by swood1000 View Post
    Suppose there is a college basketball player who is good enough to be one of the top three chosen in the lottery, if not the first. He reads http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/mor...e50/index.html and sees all the endorsement earnings of the superstar athletes but concludes that while he’ll be a solid player in the NBA he probably will not become a superstar there. However, he thinks that he might be able to achieve superstar status (and therefore hefty endorsement contracts) a different way.

    He decides that if he stays in college he will be able to rise to the superstar level as a big fish in a little pond: everyone else good enough to go pro has gone pro, putting him head and shoulders above the remaining college players. By staying in college and putting on dazzling performances for a team that is a national champion contender he figures that he will get much more national attention than he would have gotten in three years in the NBA, especially if he leads his team to one or more national championships. His presence on the team also will help recruiting, increasing the championship possibilities as well as the attention focused on the team. He will try to maximize his national media exposure by speaking and doing work on behalf of popular causes.

    Also suppose that he is the kind of person whom companies want as a representative: articulate, squeaky clean personal life, likable, engaging. How likely is it that this approach would generate additional endorsement income over the course of his life at least equal to the three years of player salary that he gave up to stay in college? How important should it be to his decision that this form of income is more stable in that it tends to continue even if he stops playing because of injury?

    Should a player with significant talent think of this as a legitimate alternative route – building up star power in college which probably would not have been available to him had he started from scratch in the NBA (especially if (a) he might sit idle a large part of his first year in the NBA because of a labor dispute, and (b) he wanted a college degree for other reasons)?
    I think the problem with this reasoning is that except for a very few, who you can just about count on one hand, earning power relates to current star power. Being the best in college basketball for a year or two does not necessarily bring later earnings. First, I don't think that there has ever been a guy who was projected by scouts as a top three pick, but didn't think that he could be a star in the NBA. There are plenty of guys who don't expect to be Kobe or LeBron, but they all expect to be much more than a "solid player."

    I think a better analogy would be guys like JJ and Hansbrough. Both could have been certain first round picks, and possible lottery picks after their junior years, but came back for an extra year as the face of college basketball on a championship favorite. For these guys, I don't think their decision mattered all that much in terms of dollars, especially for endorsements. On a national level, I can only come up with one guy, Laettner, who can still earn money based off of what he did in college, and even that is only because he created arguably the all-time greatest college basketball moment in history (an unreasonable expectation for anyone with this decision). Both JJ and Hansbrough built up about as much star power as can be expected in their extra year, but I doubt that it has done too much to add to their endorsement deals. Look at some other recent examples of guys who have come out. John Wall immediately got a national endorsement deal from Reebok because he is expected to be a big deal in the NBA. Evan Turner, who was just as big of a deal on the college level, but had lesser NBA expectations, did not. Look at Blake Griffin. He was a big time star on the college level, but hasn't gotten the national exposure from endorsements until he became a nightly fixture on Sportscenter for his exploits at the NBA level. Jimmer Fredette could probably get a few endorsement deals right now, but come this time next year, everyone will have moved on to the next thing, unless he can somehow (not likely) keep this up at the NBA level.

    The reality is that, outside of local car dealership commercials, and a contract to finally put your name on the back of a college jersey, there is little money to be made on being a former college star. Unless the NCAA for some reason accepts the "Jay Bilas model" in which current college players can earn endorsement money, it doesn't make sense from a starpower point of view to return to college. That isn't to say that there aren't possible financial benefits to staying. You can improve your draft stock (if possible) and earn a bigger rookie deal, or polish your game to get off the bench sooner in your career, but I don't think that extra college star power will do too much for your wallet in the long run.
    Pratt '09
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  4. #4
    Small correction: Evan Turner signed a deal with Li-Ning back during the summer. Unless things have changed, I think they have a signature shoe planned for him at some point. Not quite Reebok, but they have Baron Davis too, so there's that.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by SCMatt33 View Post
    I think the problem with this reasoning is that except for a very few, who you can just about count on one hand, earning power relates to current star power. Being the best in college basketball for a year or two does not necessarily bring later earnings. First, I don't think that there has ever been a guy who was projected by scouts as a top three pick, but didn't think that he could be a star in the NBA. There are plenty of guys who don't expect to be Kobe or LeBron, but they all expect to be much more than a "solid player."

    I think a better analogy would be guys like JJ and Hansbrough. Both could have been certain first round picks, and possible lottery picks after their junior years, but came back for an extra year as the face of college basketball on a championship favorite. For these guys, I don't think their decision mattered all that much in terms of dollars, especially for endorsements. On a national level, I can only come up with one guy, Laettner, who can still earn money based off of what he did in college, and even that is only because he created arguably the all-time greatest college basketball moment in history (an unreasonable expectation for anyone with this decision). Both JJ and Hansbrough built up about as much star power as can be expected in their extra year, but I doubt that it has done too much to add to their endorsement deals. Look at some other recent examples of guys who have come out. John Wall immediately got a national endorsement deal from Reebok because he is expected to be a big deal in the NBA. Evan Turner, who was just as big of a deal on the college level, but had lesser NBA expectations, did not. Look at Blake Griffin. He was a big time star on the college level, but hasn't gotten the national exposure from endorsements until he became a nightly fixture on Sportscenter for his exploits at the NBA level. Jimmer Fredette could probably get a few endorsement deals right now, but come this time next year, everyone will have moved on to the next thing, unless he can somehow (not likely) keep this up at the NBA level.

    The reality is that, outside of local car dealership commercials, and a contract to finally put your name on the back of a college jersey, there is little money to be made on being a former college star. Unless the NCAA for some reason accepts the "Jay Bilas model" in which current college players can earn endorsement money, it doesn't make sense from a starpower point of view to return to college. That isn't to say that there aren't possible financial benefits to staying. You can improve your draft stock (if possible) and earn a bigger rookie deal, or polish your game to get off the bench sooner in your career, but I don't think that extra college star power will do too much for your wallet in the long run.
    OK, the players you mentioned were JJ, Hansbrough, Turner, Wall, Fredette. Of those, only Wall was good enough, in his freshman year, to be picked first in the lottery. Those are the only ones I'm talking about. Now, it could be that anyone good enough to be picked first in the lottery in his freshman year is guaranteed to land lucrative endorsement contracts but is that the case?

    It seems to me that endorsement deals are based on whether the buying public admires the guy right now and wants to be associated with him. You can have two people with equal basketball skills and one earns much more in endorsements purely because of PR reasons: more people know who he is and more people associate him with success. Furthermore, Wall's deal shows that good PR in college can have immediate results.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by swood1000 View Post
    OK, the players you mentioned were JJ, Hansbrough, Turner, Wall, Fredette. Of those, only Wall was good enough, in his freshman year, to be picked first in the lottery. Those are the only ones I'm talking about. Now, it could be that anyone good enough to be picked first in the lottery in his freshman year is guaranteed to land lucrative endorsement contracts but is that the case?

    It seems to me that endorsement deals are based on whether the buying public admires the guy right now and wants to be associated with him. You can have two people with equal basketball skills and one earns much more in endorsements purely because of PR reasons: more people know who he is and more people associate him with success. Furthermore, Wall's deal shows that good PR in college can have immediate results.
    The problem is that when it comes to their decision, it doesn't matter what the player's actual potential is at the next level. It only matters what he perceives his potential to be. I don't think that there is anyone who has the combination of talent, drive, and ego to make himself a top three pick in the draft, but think little enough of himself to say that he will never be a top earner in the league. Let's be honest, if Kyrie didn't have the drive and ego (not too much ego, but you still need some ego to want the ball in your hands) to get himself in top three, he probably thinks that he can be a star at the next level. The guys who come back are the ones who figure that they will be a star no matter when they come out and are willing to wait for the pay day because they want to.
    Pratt '09
    GO DUKE!

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Starter View Post
    Battier and Hansbrough come to mind as players who were college superstars and were basically forgotten about.
    I knew Hansbrough would be mentioned in a thread about traveling

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by dball View Post
    I knew Hansbrough would be mentioned in a thread about traveling
    Good call, but is it still appropriate when the title is about "less traveled"
    Pratt '09
    GO DUKE!

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by SCMatt33 View Post
    The problem is that when it comes to their decision, it doesn't matter what the player's actual potential is at the next level. It only matters what he perceives his potential to be. I don't think that there is anyone who has the combination of talent, drive, and ego to make himself a top three pick in the draft, but think little enough of himself to say that he will never be a top earner in the league. Let's be honest, if Kyrie didn't have the drive and ego (not too much ego, but you still need some ego to want the ball in your hands) to get himself in top three, he probably thinks that he can be a star at the next level. The guys who come back are the ones who figure that they will be a star no matter when they come out and are willing to wait for the pay day because they want to.
    I'm thinking of the guy who is realistic. He has a high opinion of his capabilities but also recognizes that there have been many players who were at his level but for some reason just never got the recognition and acclaim that they expected and deserved in the NBA. He's seen highly qualified people end up with not much in the way of endorsement deals. To get the good deals a person has to rise above the crowd enough to be noticed by the public and associated with victory. For those who are not Kobe Bryant or Lebron James that's a lot easier to do in college. Furthermore, as a superstar in college he can stand out as much as Lebron James does in the NBA since everyone else at his level has left college.

    To get name recognition and positive public association in the NBA he has to compete with professional players. In college he only has to compete with college players. The latter seems to have a greater chance of getting him into John Wall's position immediately upon graduation. And somebody in advertising would be better to speak to this, but it seems to me that the acclaim and aura of success will get him the good endorsement deal despite the fact that he got it in college against "only college students."

  10. #10

    Seriously...

    Quote Originally Posted by Starter View Post
    If this is about Kyrie -- it seems like it is? -- he has as good a chance as any to be a star in the NBA.
    If the original post is referring to Kyrie, it's way off base.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by slower View Post
    If the original post is referring to Kyrie, it's way off base.
    Is it way off base because history shows that every player with Kyrie's skills has achieved a top level endorsement contract, and it is therefore a done deal? Is it off base because there is no way that Kyrie could enhance his image in college in a way that would significantly increase his endorsement potential after college?

  12. #12
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    Wait, I thought this was about Harrison Barnes? I was fooled by the big fish in a small pond argument. Kyrie will be a big fish in any pond or ocean he ever plays in. And because of that I wish him the best whenever he decides he wants to play in the NBA.

  13. #13
    If college athletes were allowed to cash those endorsement checks without losing their eligibility, this thread would make a lot more sense. Alas, the NCAA is not exactly known for making sense.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Berg View Post
    If college athletes were allowed to cash those endorsement checks without losing their eligibility, this thread would make a lot more sense. Alas, the NCAA is not exactly known for making sense.
    You misunderstand. The point is not that anyone will get rich while in college. The question is whether, by staying in college, an exceptional athlete can significantly increase his marketability so that upon graduation and afterward he will be able to negotiate a much more lucrative endorsement contract than if he gone earlier into the NBA.

  15. #15
    I have always said that having an education is never a bad thing. My youngest son recently informed me he is going to go back to school for his 3rd degree.

    If this thread is about a player who plays happens to play for Duke University, how could staying at DUKE & learning for one of the greatest basketball geniuses of all time. Studying under him would probably only elevate your game. An added bonus is a top notch education from an premier college.

    If this is in any way about Kyrie, i think he is coming back. Those award banquets can be pretty inspiring & the video Mrs. K does for the seniors are motivating.

    Okay so I can only hope. The Daytona 500 is boring & it is too early for the game.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by swood1000 View Post
    Is it way off base because history shows that every player with Kyrie's skills has achieved a top level endorsement contract, and it is therefore a done deal? Is it off base because there is no way that Kyrie could enhance his image in college in a way that would significantly increase his endorsement potential after college?
    Your opening paragraph said "...but concludes that while he’ll be a solid player in the NBA he probably will not become a superstar there."

    Are you not aware that Kyrie is almost universally projected as a Top 3 pick this year and is most often compared to Chris Paul? Why would anybody conclude that Kyrie will NOT become a superstar there? While it's true that he MAY not, it's even MORE true of almost everybody else. My quarrel is with your highly questionable assertion that Kyrie (and others) are assuming that he WON'T become a superstar (relative to the chances of anybody else).

    The best path to superstar income is superstar performance IN THE NBA. Most of the NBA players on the list are there because of large salaries, not large endorsement incomes (at least, not relative to golfers, etc.).

    Sounds to me like a case of wishful thinking that Kyrie will stay at Duke rather than go pro after this season. Don't get me wrong, I'd LOVE for him to stay. But your logic seems flawed.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by swood1000 View Post
    You misunderstand. The point is not that anyone will get rich while in college. The question is whether, by staying in college, an exceptional athlete can significantly increase his marketability so that upon graduation and afterward he will be able to negotiate a much more lucrative endorsement contract than if he gone earlier into the NBA.
    No, I understand, I just disagree. The way things stand, a player of Kyrie's caliber can make more money during his N years in the NBA than he would by spending C years "pre-marketing" himself in college plus (N-C) years in the NBA. Frankly, I don't think the numbers are very close.

    All I'm saying is, if circumstances were different and college players were allowed to earn income above-board, the equation would change in favor of your argument. We don't know exactly what the economics of a semi-professional NCAA would look like, since it's never been tried (Reggie Bush et al aside), but it would at least give the "Kyrie makes more money by staying an extra year" hypothesis a fighting chance.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by slower View Post
    Your opening paragraph said "...but concludes that while he’ll be a solid player in the NBA he probably will not become a superstar there."

    Are you not aware that Kyrie is almost universally projected as a Top 3 pick this year and is most often compared to Chris Paul? Why would anybody conclude that Kyrie will NOT become a superstar there? While it's true that he MAY not, it's even MORE true of almost everybody else. My quarrel is with your highly questionable assertion that Kyrie (and others) are assuming that he WON'T become a superstar (relative to the chances of anybody else).

    The best path to superstar income is superstar performance IN THE NBA. Most of the NBA players on the list are there because of large salaries, not large endorsement incomes (at least, not relative to golfers, etc.).

    Sounds to me like a case of wishful thinking that Kyrie will stay at Duke rather than go pro after this season. Don't get me wrong, I'd LOVE for him to stay. But your logic seems flawed.
    If Lebron James were in college I would assume that his ability to land a highly lucrative endorsement contract in the NBA would be a done deal. Strike "superstar" and replace it with "those for whom a highly lucrative endorsement contract is a done deal." Of the remainder, I am referring only to those at the top.

    You appear to be saying that for basketball players endorsement income should not be thought of as a significant revenue source. I guess that is one of the questions I'm raising. Why should that be the case?

    Of course, there are other factors that go into one's marketability. Among the important ones would be whether the person is articulate, whether he is likable, and whether the buying public can identify with him personally. Those who can't pass these barriers need not give much thought to the question.

    Another problem would be the difficulty of enhancing one's image and name recognition given the level of competition that there is in the NBA. However, it is possible for a person to greatly enhance his marketability through his play as a college player, since that's what John Wall did. The question is whether players are too quickly overlooking that option.

  19. #19

    Nope...

    Quote Originally Posted by swood1000 View Post
    If Lebron James were in college I would assume that his ability to land a highly lucrative endorsement contract in the NBA would be a done deal. Strike "superstar" and replace it with "those for whom a highly lucrative endorsement contract is a done deal." Of the remainder, I am referring only to those at the top.

    You appear to be saying that for basketball players endorsement income should not be thought of as a significant revenue source. I guess that is one of the questions I'm raising. Why should that be the case?

    Of course, there are other factors that go into one's marketability. Among the important ones would be whether the person is articulate, whether he is likable, and whether the buying public can identify with him personally. Those who can't pass these barriers need not give much thought to the question.

    Another problem would be the difficulty of enhancing one's image and name recognition given the level of competition that there is in the NBA. However, it is possible for a person to greatly enhance his marketability through his play as a college player, since that's what John Wall did. The question is whether players are too quickly overlooking that option.
    My point is that, based on the SI list you linked, the total income of almost all the NBA players on that list is heavily weighted toward salary, not endorsements. And my main point is that endorsement income will follow performance in the NBA, not in college. If John Wall gets injured or plays like a scrub, they won't be buying his shoes anymore. Even for a once-in-a-generation talent like LeBron, if he wasn't producing IN THE NBA, there go the endorsements.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Berg View Post
    No, I understand, I just disagree. The way things stand, a player of Kyrie's caliber can make more money during his N years in the NBA than he would by spending C years "pre-marketing" himself in college plus (N-C) years in the NBA. Frankly, I don't think the numbers are very close.
    Well, John Wall landed a $25M contract after only one year in college. http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news;_yl...llreebok060910

    Of course, there are many factors that go into something like this, and he might even have qualified as a "done deal." But why should we assume that, unlike golfers, basketball players are not eligible for the big time endorsement contracts? And wouldn't the right person be able to cultivate his image quite successfully playing for a high-profile championship caliber college team?

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