Mark Cuban: A D-League Alternative to NCAA May Work Better

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Photo Courtesy of Jesús Gorriti , licensed through Flickr via Creative Commons

Photo Courtesy of Jesús Gorriti , licensed through Flickr via Creative Commons

Mark Cuban, the outspoken owner of the Dallas Mavericks, was speaking from the hip. This was not, he cautioned, a well-researched proposal, but talking to USA Today, he suggested that the D-League might be a better landing spot for star players than the NCAA. ”A major college has to pretend that they’re treating them like a student-athlete,” Cuban said. “It’s a big lie and we all know it’s a big lie. We can do all kinds of things that the NCAA doesn’t allow schools to do that would really put the individual first.”

After buying the Mavericks from Ross Perot Jr. in 2000, Cuban has been one of the most visible owners in all of American sports, headlining appearances at the MIT Sloan Analytics conference, sitting at the sidelines during Mavericks’ games, and racking up an unparalleled $2 million in fines from the league office. That stemmed from everything from tampering to insinuating biases among the referees to besmearing the good name of Dairy Queen — that last one earning him a fine of $500,000, the single largest fine in NBA history.

With talk around the league office of raising the minimum age to 20 — it’s currently 19 and was raised from 18 after the 2005 draft — the Development League would have a two-year eligibility advantage over the NBA proper. As it stands, just over a quarter of players in the NBA today have D-League experience (its website lists 137), and any increase to the age requirement would almost certainly raise that number. The D-League is currently most famous for its use as a vehicle for former NBA stars such as Antoine Walker and Ricky Davis to attempt NBA comebacks, although there have been some stars, like Houston’s Jeremy Lin, who rose to prominence in the Association after spending time in the D-League.

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