I’ve considered writing this blogpost for some time. Now, I have something relevant to relate the topic to Kansas Citians.
You see, today, KU basketball player Josh Selby, who turned 20 three weeks ago, decided to move on to the NBA. He took the one year he had to wait to enter the NBA draft, moved to Lawrence and played 26 games for one of the best basketball programs in America.
But why? It’s obvious, if you know anything about Josh Selby’s history over the last few years, he never had any intention to do anything other than play basketball for a living.
He did it because the NBA’s ridiculous restrictions on 18-year olds is silly compared to what happens to 18-year old hockey players.
Let’s compare Josh Selby to NHLer Jack Johnson.
For those of you who don’t know, Johnson was an outstanding school-age hockey player. From Indianapolis, Johnson played hockey at famed Minnesota boarding school Shattuck-Saint Mary’s. Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Zach Parise also played at SSM (KC’s newest superstar athlete Teal Bunbury played soccer at SSM)
Johnson was drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes when he was 18-years old (later traded to the LA Kings).
He went to the University of Michigan and played NCAA hockey for two seasons. He chose to play at Michigan even though Carolina pressured him not to. By the way, he made a good decision. Johnson is a terrific player now.
After the Wolverines season ended in 2006-07, Johnson went directly to the Kings and played five regular season games. IN THE SAME SEASON HE PLAYED NCAA HOCKEY!!
The list of NHL players who have done this (or at least gone to an NHL affiliate in the same season they played NCAA hockey) is long and distinguished. James Van Riemsdyk, Matt Carle, Blake Geoffrion, Brett Lebda, John-Michel Liles, Kevin Shattenkirk are a few of the names just off the US National Development team. There are many others.
Heck, Tony Amonte played for Boston University in 1990-91, then played in the 1991 Stanley Cup Playoffs for the New York Rangers.
Why is it OK for Jack Johnson to get drafted at 18, then play NCAA hockey and play professional hockey in the same season, but it’s not OK for 18-year old basketball players to get drafted?
What’s different between Jack Johnson and Josh Selby?
Sports talkers in Kansas City have been critical of Selby and have said silly things like Kansas fans should be upset with Selby. What? I’m a Kansas fan and I don’t begrudge Selby for leaving at all. But, I’m also a hockey fan and see how unfair the NBA rules are.
The guy just wants “to go to the court everyday and get paid to do it.” (a little edit to the famous Bull Durham line.)
What if the NBA worked like this?
Selby, a school-age phenom, is drafted after he turns 18 by his hometown Washington Wizards. He doesn’t sign with an agent right away and decides he’s not quite ready for the NBA.
He goes to KU to play basketball, while the Wizards retain his rights. After Kansas’ last game in the NCAA Tournament, Selby announces he’s not coming back and goes directly to the Wizards and plays the last few regular season games (or, goes to the Dakota Wizards of the NBDL for the remainder of their season).
What would be so wrong with that? Baseball players get drafted at 18 and play NCAA baseball while a MLB “owns their rights.” Incredibly enough, even lacrosse players are drafted by Major League Lacrosse and play NCAA lacrosse while the MLL team owns their rights.
I can’t help but point out the obvious.
18-year old hockey players are, in general, suburban white kids or Canadian farm kids. 18-year old basketball players are, in general, not.
What the NBA does is shameful.
Good luck, Josh Selby. I enjoyed watching him play while he was at KU and have no problem with him going off to do what he wants to do.