Monday night in Indianapolis, Michigan State senior guard Mateen Cleaves put together one of the gutsiest performances in the history of NCAA basketball. The image of Cleaves limping around the court with his index finger raised should leave a lasting impression on the record-low number of people who watched this year's championship game.
Yes, that's right-senior guard Mateen Cleaves. Although they are becoming rarer every year, seniors are still playing big-time college basketball.
The reasons for early entry to the NBA Draft are understandable. For the talented players, the additional year in college is one fewer year where they'll get to earn 10 million dollars down the road. If their current salary prospects are high, they don't want to risk an injury or an off-year in their next college season that will ruin their market value.
Many of them come from difficult neighborhoods, and they feel the necessity to provide immediate economic relief to their families. And for some, the urge to build up that long-dreamed-about fleet of luxury cars as soon as possible is just too strong to resist.
But Cleaves' performance should make those athletes think twice about coming out early for the NBA.
Michigan State's championship proves that in today's game of college basketball, any big-time team that can keep a core of talented veterans is bound to be a national contender. So an early entrance to the NBA early could easily cost a player a year in the Final Four.
Now compare that to what awaits those lottery picks in their first year of the NBA. It must be a bittersweet feeling to earn a multi-million dollar contract while realizing that you must spend the next three years of your life playing for the Golden State Warriors or the LA Clippers.
What would you rather do? Win a national championship and frolic around like Cleaves did last night, or crumble away in obscurity in front of a crowd of people so jaded that they actually pay to watch a team that loses 80 percent of its games?
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