First, I will give you the facts. Bill Simmons, The Sports Guy, from ESPN.com is one of the best known sports columnists on the Web. His columns are read by hundreds of thousands and he creates a lot of page views of the WWL website. I confess, I generally like his work, although, he has been substandard for a while now. Anyway, it looks like TSG is reviving his blog and is talkin’ hoops on it. Here is a paragraph from his February 8th, 2007 entry:
Meanwhile, the NBA's main objective for the age limit has been realized -- namely, that we're getting to know future superstars before they actually enter the league. We're forming opinions on them. We're learning about them. In some cases (like myself with Durant), we're becoming fans of them. And that's a HUGE deal. The age limit wasn't about protecting these kids as much as cultivating them as properties over the long haul. For example, what would have been better for the league -- Durant getting drafted by the Raptors and playing 25 up-and-down minutes a game (like Bargnani right now), or Durant kicking butt in college and turning himself into a national phenomenon, someone who has every diehard basketball fan checking schedules to see when Texas is playing next? It's a no-brainer. Can you imagine a better scenario for the NBA than people spending the next five months arguing about Durant vs. Oden?
Immediately after reading that paragraph, I swore it sounded familiar and began scrambling for where I had heard it before and then I found it. I was perusing TrueHoop.com earlier and happened upon a link to an NPR piece by Frank Deford, the esteemed Sports Illustrated writing guru.
There is a brief synopsis of the spot here, and there is a link to the audio as well on that page. This is from the synopsis:
But what the professional league really hopes is that young players will build a reputation in college so that when they come to the NBA they'll be more recognizable — and more marketable.
In brief, Deford argues in the radio spot that the NBA is getting free marketing with the new 19 year-old age-limit for American high schoolers to enter the NBA because the future superstars have to spend a year “incarcerated” in college before entering the pro ranks. The league is getting all of this free build-up of the players in college that will entice people to follow them as rookies. His prime examples are Kevin Durant and Greg Oden of Texas and Ohio State, respectively, the two big freshmen in NCAA hoops this year. Listen to the clip, there is a full three and an half minutes on this subject. The dateline for the story is the morning of February 7th, 2007.
Listen to the audio and then compare it Simmons’ blog entry and tell me what you think. I am a bit perplexed. On the one hand, the idea isn’t necessarily novel because others have argued in the past that the age-limit gives the NBA free development of players, which would include the hype as well as the refined skills. On the other hand, both writers cite the same examples—Durant and Oden—and the dates of publication are so close to each other.
What do you think? Should Deford have a beef with Simmons now?