Column | Bagley a case greatness stunted for no good reason

Sierra Canyon's Marvin Bagley III #35 is seen against La Lumiere during a high school basketball game at the 2017 Hoophall Classic on Monday, January 16, 2017, in Springfield, MA.. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)
Gregory Payan/AP photo

Prodigies are usually allowed to flourish no matter the situation. A pianist can play at Carnegie Hall before puberty. A painter can sell works of art to galleries no matter the background. Child actors can win awards for mesmerizing performances well before understanding the grasp of their work. So on and so forth.

Just don’t be excellent at a craft that is riddled with semantics and rules that apply in nearly no other place of entertainment or place of labor.

According to various reports, Marvin Bagley III is mulling over the idea of reclassifying his recruiting status, as he may potentially become a 2017 recruit instead of his original 2018 classification.

This isn’t being considered because Bagley wants to hit campus early to get some extra classwork done. It isn’t an idea being floated around so he might begin his academic and non-sports revenue earning early. Rather, at least according to reports, there’s a hope he can find a way to enter the 2018 NBA Draft, a year earlier than he’s “allowed” by letter of the law.

Bagley, one of the best high school players in the nation, doesn’t have to actually attend college to become eligible for next year’s draft. If certain requirements are met, or loopholes found, he can play abroad or even just at the high school level.

But he knows the game, as do you and I.

Despite being widely considered a near mortal lock to be a lottery selection no matter when he is allowed to enter the professional ranks, Bagley’s stock is heavily contingent on playing against the best competition as possible — you know, for the sake of making the scouting process as easy as possible for the people tasked with determining his value.

For the player, as well as his aspirations, Bagley knows that to highlight the most value of himself to potential future employers, he likely needs to play big boy Division I basketball.

In no uncertain terms, if all the reports are true and steps are made by Bagley (or those helping him to make a decision) to get to the NBA as soon as possible, there’s a chance a teenager will be donning a uniform next season he has no sincere wishes to wear. It will be on his body for the sake of … well, if we’re being truthful, no good reason.

Imagine living in a world where the aforementioned pianist, who could possibly be considered beyond a prodigy, was unable to wow a crowd at Carnegie Hall simply because people who don’t have the pianist’s best interest at heart are looking for the best way to monetize the artist.

What if television shows and movies were void of child actors only because someone stepped in to place an arbitrary — and most certainly not an altruistic — rule that prohibits people under a certain age from helping to create entertainment?

This is the world we live in with basketball.

An NBA rule in place, that directly benefits the NCAA, is purposely stunting greatness. Not because the professional league is protecting the basketball prodigy; it simply wants protection from itself and its historical ineptitude of scouting players at the high school level.

There’s obviously more to it than that. The NBA would like its players better marketed, which college basketball aids in providing. The professional basketball league also enjoys the free feeder/developmental system the NCAA has put in place; etc., etc. and etc.

And it is all nauseating.

Years from now, people are going to look back at this time period and acknowledge the one-and-done era for what it currently is — one of the last great bastions of a (mostly) civilized society exploiting its labor for the sake of the masses’ entertainment and organizations’ greed.

We should be embarrassed and disgusted that such a thing has been allowed. A purposely designed and publicly practiced curb-stomping of brilliance because old people in positions of authority are trying like hell to prevent those without power from obtaining any.  And that’s because the former needs to make sure their pocketbooks are lined, thanks in large part to those who are the brilliant.

Whether or not Marvin Bagley reclassifies is important, but only in terms relative to sports.

The fact Bagley has to ponder such jumping through hoops to do a thing that everyone already knows he’s qualified to do, that’s vastly more important.

Great job, us. Aside from liking to count other people’s money, judging another’s dreams, and telling others what is best for their lives without knowing them, we also sure as hell like to turn a blind-eye to obvious labor abuse if it might hurt something we enjoy.

Whenever we have these discussions about a Bagley or other players looking to work around the system, we often bring up legalities or what is best for business. Maybe we have been doing it wrong. Maybe, instead of asking if these things are correct in terms relative to the law, we should question if the prevention of excellence rising to the top is morally just and ethical.

Joseph has been covering basketball for nearly a decade. He is the host of the Relatively Speaking Podcast and a columnist for FanRag Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JosephNardone.


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