David West and the NCAA

Ideas and Issues

Little Rock       Let me start with some full disclosures.  In our house, we’ve always been David West fans.

Flat out with no apologies.  Who is David West?  Well, he was until very recently a 6’9” forward in the National Basketball Association.  In our house we lived and breathed the days when it looked like Chris Paul, the great and still playing point guard now with the Houston Rockets, and David West, teamed up on the New Orleans Hornets, now known as the Pelicans during the post-Katrina years.  West had a silky mid-range jumper and was a presence inside, made a couple of All-Star rosters in New Orleans, as did Paul, and then went looking for a ring after we failed in the playoffs  He did time in Indianapolis with the Pacers, then did a low-pay year with the San Antonio Spurs to learn their system and play under their great coach, and took pretty minimum pay to do two years with Golden State to pick up two championship rings in 2017 and 2018 until retiring at the end of the last season.

But, that’s only part of the West story that makes me a fan.  There was a great article some years ago about a nun at Xavier University where West was a breakout star and an All-American for three years and the AP Player of the Year as a senior setting him up as a #1 draft pick late in the first round.  The nun was sort of the 6th player, went to every game, and kept Xavier on an even keel, and built a great relationship with West.  I also liked the way he was willing to pass up the money for a chance to learn more about the game and get a ring in his last years.   On a team of superstars at Golden State he got big props as a voice in the locker room and as someone who was all about the team. I like that.  My point:  David West has character.

I also don’t particularly like the NCAA and its exploitation of college athletes.  They now make a billion dollars a year on free labor by exploiting the hopes and dreams of thousands of young men and women.  Scandal has a front row seat at all of their events. Their recent record sucks.  How about sexual abuse of gymnasts?  Recruiting corruption by coaches?  Inability to police athletic and shoe companies and the millions they use to buy teams, look at Duke star Zion Willamson and his shoe collapse!  Players tried to unionize at Northwestern and elsewhere, but they fought it.  They disqualify athletes for imagined offenses without due process.  I could go on, but bottom line, they exploit and pimp out the athletes without pay for their work.  Period. Full stop.

David West is a player with experience and integrity.  He has now embarked on what may seem a quixotic journey as chief operating officer of the Historical Basketball League for college players.  The league is hoping to field a dozen teams in 2020.  West is trying to sign up players for between $50 and $100,000 plus full-boat college scholarships.  The players would forgo NCAA eligibility and play in the summer.  He’s hoping to disrupt the NCAA system and force them to pay players as well.

It sounds impossible, but I’m once again in the cheap seats rooting for West and hoping he forces the NCAA to finally change, for the sake of young athletes and simple justice which would serve us all.