05.24.10

The NBA Draft – One Of The More Exploitive Ways Of Making Young Men Millionaires

Posted in Basketball, Blogged Down at 5:50 pm by

Between now and June 24, the NBA prospects of everyone from Kentucky PG John Wall to Serbian C Boban Marjanovic (above) will be hotly debated and dissected.  It’s a fun process — especially when small fractions of signing bonuses are already committed to the planet’s ugliest suits for draft night — but there are bigger questions raised than, say, “can Donatas Montijuana develop as a perimeter shooter?” Ben Polk of A Wolf Among Wolves calls the draft, “(one of) the most uniquely un-free labor practices imaginable in a free-market democracy” (“when it comes to the NBA draft, the dictates of employer need, inter-league parity and the chance movements of ping-pong balls trump freedom of employment every time.”)

Players are essentially consenting to become commodities. They are referred to as œassets and œpieces, and are bought, sold and traded as such. The movements and labors of their bodies are known as œthe product, and their inner lives deemed valuable only in the extent that they can a) foster their teams™ production or b) be packaged into digestible, televisable bits. And if the life of ease and comfort that all that money promises turns out to be a little more elusive than originally imagined (spying Mo Williams™s  acrostic œNBA: Never Broke Again tattoo, one can only cross one™s fingers), it™s partially because the league™s investment ends when the player is finally physically unable to perform (it could be worse, though“just check out the NFL).

In many ways, the draft is a young fella™s initiation into this rather unpalatable system of exchange. Bodies are examined, categorized and bisected. Actions are dissolved into statistics and compartmentalized into video montages. Psychologies are expertly analyzed based on a precise algorithm of hearsay and casual TV watching.

“We allow them (NBA rookies) to become consumer items in order to feed our dreams of a better tomorrow,” writes Polk, and while it seems very difficult to envision there was once a moment where Bryant Reeves was a consumer item,  I assure you, it really happened.

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