The Hamidou Argument: Not Your Fault, BBN

Coach Cal questions a call by the referee during the FL game. (Photo by Victoria Graff)

There are a few things that bother me about the Hamidou Diallo situation. And they’re not about the young man’s decision itself.

One thing that bothers me involves the variously convoluted ways in which the NBA, the NCAA and the players unions have conspired to create a most circuitous, knots-in-the-rope approach to a direct problem.

The problem is this: Any good enough athlete should be allowed to play professional basketball at any time in his life. It’s the American way – remember the pursuit of liberty.

But then, who’d be left to play college basketball? What would the NCAA do with all those pricey arenas and hours of TV time on CBS, ESPN and TBS? What would Joe Lunardi do? Brad Calipari might be a star.

It doesn’t have to be so complicated. And it wasn’t always. Once upon a time, high school basketball seniors simply signed up for four years of college and played for three years (for some reason, excluding their freshman seasons – how archaic that now seems).

They could skip their senior years, but they had to go off for a year and do something else until their college class graduated. (Wilt Chamberlain left Kansas after his junior year, played a season with the Harlem Globetrotters, then joined the NBA in 1959.)

It did seem unfair, though, forcing a good player to spend four prime years not getting paid. Although, back then, the NBA money was almost laughable anyway.

Then, in 1971, “the hardship draft” made special accommodations if a college athlete could prove “financial need.”

Now even high school players were able to enter the NBA draft. Welcome to the era of Darryl Dawkins, Moses Malone, Shawn Kemp, Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryant, Amar’e Stoudemire and LeBron James.

Clearly, the jump from high school to pro was proving to be every bit as impossible as everyone had predicted.

However, this left the NCAA without the exquisite talents of McGrady, Bryant, James, et al. So the rule was changed again as part of the 2005 collective bargaining agreement – between the NBA and its players association, NOT between the NBA and John Calipari – setting an age limit for playing professionally and also requiring that an NBA draftee must have graduated high school at least one year earlier.

Fairly straightforward. Play in college for at least a year, then declare for the draft and go on to NBA riches.

Then enter the college basketball coaches, amending their own rules so a player could put his name in the draft, test the waters and reenter school, as long as he hadn’t hired an agent.

Okay, everyone happy now?

Nope. Another loophole. Hamidou Diallo graduated high school early and spent a half-year not playing for Kentucky, after which he was technically legally eligible for the upcoming draft. You know, as long as he didn’t hire an agent.

Seems everything would be hunky-dory for everyone if not for agents.

However, BBN is being scolded by various sports pundits for its reaction to Diallo’s actions.

You’re being blamed for being disappointed, unreasonable, angry. You think Diallo pulled the wool over Calipari’s eyes and used the UK basketball program for his own benefit.

If this were what he was planning all along, he should have ripped the red shirt off his back and contributed his considerable talents to a greater NCAA outcome.

Calipari has even been tagged with a new phrase: the none-and-done. Diallo used the Kentucky program in a sort of one-way contractual bargain in which he benefited from the coaching and practice and provided nothing in return. And Kentucky fans are worked up.

Here are excerpts of what Kyle Tucker wrote on his SEC Country blog:

“Hamidou Diallo did on Sunday night exactly what any reasonable person in his position would, and some Kentucky basketball fans flipped out. Friendly piece of advice: don’t flip out…

“This is not your life, not your career, not your potential fortune to be gained, lost, enhanced or diminished. … So remind me again what you’re flipping out about, Cats fans.”

Here’s what Tucker didn’t say:

I write about basketball. My livelihood depends on your investment in whichever team you root for. If you root for Kentucky basketball, you’re knowledgeable, intense and borderline insane.

If you’re not, I have nothing to write about. At LSU or Alabama, Diallo is just a Monday morning item forgotten about by Wednesday.

You’re supposed to be disappointed by Diallo. Incensed. Ranting and raving. Maybe illogically. Doesn’t matter, it’s what gives me my job. VT