Is Highschool Basketball Becoming A Business?


by Alana DeRose

High school superstars: Jada Williams, Bronny James, Lamelo Ball, and Mikey Williams

Obviously professional athletes are the ones that receive the fame and the money. That’s how it’s always been. You start off playing recreational, then move onto a travel team, then your high school team, and if the league allows it, go into the professional settings, or for others who don’t go pro; college. 

So what’s changed? 

In the past few years basketball players such as: Mikey Williams, Jada Williams, Bronny James, Zion Williamson and, we can’t forget, Lamelo Ball. These players have gotten professional level fame and attention while still in high school!

Increasing popularity in social media and media in general is a root cause of the high level fame for players who haven’t even hit 18!. Accounts such as Overtime, BallisLife and even ESPN, have showcased high school basketball games and highlights of the many talented players, giving them a huge following before their 18th birthday. 

However, not every school does a good job of showcasing their talented athletes, so the old ways of going to the high school that’s in your community and playing basketball there is dead. Now, students are switching schools left and right in hopes to be recognized and gain attention, because with this popularity also comes money for the players. 

In the past summer, just like college students, high school students can now monetize their name and gain endorsement deals. However, they’re not allowed to do these deals while in their school uniform. 

Stars such as Mikey Williams and Jada Williams already have contracts with Puma and Spalding due to their high following. “If a school does it right, they’re going to celebrate their athletes being marketable and they might see more fans in the stands,” Co-founder and Chief Executive of Opendorse, Blake Lawrence said, in a recording by the New York Times. 

This is exactly what’s happened at both high schools Mikey Williams attended. Celebrities such as Dababy, Lebron James and NBA Youngboy have come to watch the young star play. 

However, not only are high schools benefiting from their celebrity players, but the numerous places that host these AAU teams are benefiting and the players are too. 

Many players who don’t exactly go to the best high schools for recognition rely on the AAU season and showcases to show off their talent. 

The pressure of AAU is ingrained into players’ minds starting at the young age of 9 or 10. Literally this past summer consisted of me, my parents and my 14 year old brother travelling consistently for his days worth of basketball tournaments, and weekdays full of practices. So practically this entire summer he was really only around his team. 

This importance with the rise of AAU basketball is ultimately treating these kids like they’re professional athletes, making this a full-time job for them.

However, the national schedules don’t only stop at AAU now.

Back in May USA Today reported that the forming of a national basketball league is underway for this upcoming season. Schools such as Oak Hill Academy (VA), IMG Academy (FL), Montverde Academy (FL), La Lumiere School (IN), Wasatch Academy (UT) and Sunrise Christian (KS) have commited to play in the national league. 

The National Interscholastic Basketball Conference (NIBC) will consist of 10 regular-season games and a postseason tournament. 

The games will be shown on ESPNU starting December 2. 

However, that’s not it. Not only is the blow up of AAU and social media getting players their thousand of dollars worth of recognition but, there are also many instances where parents would hold their child back a grade in order for them to gain an athletic advantage or “redshirting”. 

WCPO News, located in Cincinnati, has reported there to be four cases that All Saints School has turned away a student because of the parent wanting to “redshirt” their child and there’s been many more in states such as New Jersey, Washington D.C. and Florida. 

This is stupid because not only has the NCAA said that this won’t guarantee a player a scholarship, but it also deprives them the growth and development  they need to become better players. Holding these players back one year won’t really change much, as it’s still only one year. 

It’s obvious that high school basketball is being taken more seriously now, as the opportunities have now become endless for these young players.