Top young basketball players will soon have a choice of whether to take their talents to college hoops or to an alternate paid summer league while continuing to pursue their education, retired NBA champion David West told CNBC on Friday.
West, who earned championship rings with the Golden State Warriors in 2017 and 2018, is the chief operating officer of the Historical Basketball League, which plans to play its first season in 2020 in a dozen cities across the country.
The league aims to compete with the NCAA’s student-athlete design, which bars college athletes from compensation, for top-tier ballers, he said.
The league will recruit players between the ages of 18 and 23, he said, and has plans to expand to 20 cities.
“We’re just another option,” West said on “Power Lunch.” “They have a model. There’s a traditional model in place, but we don’t feel that that model is equitable and fair. So we’re gonna create an opportunity for kids to make a choice.”
The choice for athletes will be to join amateur college basketball, the dominant channel to the NBA, or the professional league, which plans to pay between $50,000 and $150,000 per season, based on a player’s talent and marketability, he said. He explained that HBL players will be able to sign with an agent and take advantage of their “fandom.”
West himself took the traditional route to the NBA by way of Xavier University, which led to a first-round draft pick by the New Orleans Hornets in 2003. That same year LeBron James was the No. 1 pick in the most-hyped high school draft pick of the decade.
“I probably learned the most about basketball in my brief moment with [San Antonio Spurs] Coach [Gregg] Popovich, just because every day he’s like a teacher … and finds a way to spin life and basketball into one,” said West, who had a 15-season career with four teams.
As an added benefit, West said, the league will run in the summer and end in September. Players will then enroll in college without the pressure of balancing basketball and school, he said. Athletes can also pursue nontraditional education pathways, he said.
HBL would consider accepting players outside their target age demographics under special circumstances, such as those who joined the military or college athletes unhappy with their current situation, without penalty, West said.
“We create another opportunity for these kids in the market,” he said.
In lieu of television contracts, the HBL wants to leverage digital media for exposure. West pointed out that top college players such as Duke University’s Zion Williamson gain a large following on social media prior to joining a college team. College recruits, particularly in football and basketball, often turn to social media such as Twitter to promote themselves and even announce their college decisions.
“These players are generating quite [a brand],” West said. “Our pitch … is that we’re going to offer you greater value so you can sign with a marketing agent immediately to begin to monetize your likeness.”