Youth basketball = big business

March 20, 2008
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It seems there are many people and businesses these days fighting to get a piece of youth basketball. Talks between the NCAA and NBA started heating up last month about forming a coalition to launch co-branded youth basketball leagues and tournaments. NCAA and NBA sources said the move is to make coaching and officiating more uniform and improve the fundamental development of young players. The move, sources said, is also intended to drive a wedge between young players and shoe and apparel companies, which seek to exploit these kids.

But, Sonny Vaccaro, who has worked in grass roots youth basketball marketing for the nation's largest shoe makers, said it's an attempt by the NBA and NCAA to get in on the action of youth sports. Youth basketball alone is a multi-billion dollar industry in North America, according to sporting goods manufacturers associations.

Locally, former Indiana University star Greg Graham is jumping into the fray. Graham, who played five seasons in the NBA, is hosting the College Exposure Showcase March 23 at The Fieldhouse in Fishers. Graham is luring players-grades eight through 12-with the promise that 1,000 colleges have been invited to attend the Showcase.

Are services like Graham's a good service for young players and colleges, or is this an example of the exploitation of young people?
  • Kids are not a commodity. I don't think the NBA has gotten that message. It scares me to think that the NCAA might be led down this path. But you can plainly see these children/players are being exploited as marketing tools and revenue generators. Please, let this not bleed down to the co-rec youth leagues. Let the children simply play a game. It's not, after all, the winners and losers that are important, but the playing of the game.
  • The business of basketball has made its way into the youth ranks already. Teaming up with such powerful basketball entities as the NBA and NCAA is the only way to make a push at the grassroots level back toward a skill development mindset, as opposed to the current pervasive theme of traveling all over, playing games, and forgetting about fundamentals -- all of which is an exploitation of our youths for financial gain, status gain, or the like. And let's not forget about the vast number of basketball players that are also good guys in the NBA and NCAA. Don't let the few bad apples we have heard and read about in the media spoil the reputation of the countless positive role models doing good things all over.

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