As I watched ESPN’s Champions’ Classic on Tuesday, I couldn’t resist imagining what an incredible rivalry Duke vs. Kansas could become if Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins were to stay in school. Jabari vs. Wiggins. The heirs to King James’ throne. But they won’t stay. Neither will Aaron Gordon, Julius Randle, or pretty much any other college basketball player worth a pack of gum.

That sure is a shame for us. Imagine what Kentucky’s team right now if each player stayed through their senior years. Anthony Davis and Boogie Cousins would play in the post, and John Wall, Michael-Kidd Gilchrist, Eric Bledsoe would round out the starting five. There’s no question that would be the greatest college basketball team in history.

Instead, Anthony Davis is playing in front of 16,000 in New Orleans as a Pelican.

We'll be seeing a lot more of these guys--only in different jerseys. (Charles Rex Arbogast, AP)
We’ll be seeing a lot more of these guys–only in different jerseys. (Charles Rex Arbogast, AP)

Am I disappointed that we only get to watch college players for one year? Of course. Would I like players to stay through their senior year? Of course. Do I think players should? Heck no.

Put yourself in Jabari Parker’s Nikes. Sports Illustrated put you on their cover when you were in high school. You grew up on the south side of Chicago, and now you’re surrounded by a bunch of rich, spoiled Dookies. All you need to do is get C’s until March, and you can enter the NBA draft and make millions.

The most common complaint about one-and-dones is that 18-year olds are throwing away their future for a game in which one injury could end their career. Any player leaving college after their freshman season is going to be drafted, nobody without first-round talent is declaring after their freshman season. The average NBA player makes an average of $5 million a year with careers lasting an average of 5 years. That’s $25 million. The average American with a bachelor’s degree makes $2.1 million in their lifetime. Would a degree from the UCONN in some BS major like puppetry really give the NBA player a huge platform to fall back on if basketball doesn’t work out? Remember, basketball practice takes up a ton of time, and most players can’t focus on school as it is.

If a player is going to drop out of school to play in the NBA chances are they’re expected to be drafted in the first round, where contracts are guaranteed. Even if a player never plays one NBA game, they’ll still make their money, which, if properly managed can last a lifetime. Being successful and being in the NBA isn’t about being book smart, it’s about being street smart and being surrounded by wise people. Three extra years at Kansas isn’t teaching that.

We'll always love you on the 40 acres, KD.
We’ll always love you on the 40 acres, KD.

Professional athletes (yes, I’m calling college basketball players professionals. Look at the 9.7 TV rating of the 2013 Final Four—game six of this year’s World Series got an 8.9—and tell me that they’re “amateurs”.) are obscenely competitive. They have to be. How else would they reach such a high level? With that competitiveness comes the need to win and be the greatest, and to do so, they have to come out early.

Just ask Kevin Durant who declared for the draft after one season at Texas. KD has been in the league for 7 years, making his career longer than the NBA average, and he’s only 25. Had he stayed through his senior year, KD would be entering his 4th year. The extra 3 years of experience—more importantly playoff experience—is invaluable.

We’ll have the pleasure of seeing Duke and Kansas face off this season once more if we’re lucky. After that, Andrew Wiggins will be playing in Salt Lake City and Jabari will be in Phoenix. Fans will have their feelings hurt, non-sports fans will complain that these 18-year olds are throwing their lives away, and Jahil Okafor, Myles Turner, and Cliff Alexander will head to a college campus for one year, only to leave a year later. They’ll get paid, and they’ll have a chance to be more successful then they could have been even with a degree. As a fan, I don’t like it, but I as a human being, I won’t be mad. I can’t be because I’d do the same thing. As would you.

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