The 2019 National Gatorade Player of the Year, 16-year-old Emoni Bates committed early to Michigan State this week.
Bates said he “doesn’t know what the future may hold” but it’s a future that probably doesn’t include ever suiting up for the Spartans. The NCAA’s lock on the top high school recruits in the country has been significantly diminished with the opportunity for players to make good money in the NBL and G-League. Top players started skipping college and committing to pro leagues, where they could monetize their talents until they reached the age requirement for the NBA. The NCAA tried to counter by passing a ruling that allows players to market their likeness and get the bag.
Nike’s Become A Weapon In Player Empowerment
Meanwhile, Nike is still doing them, watching the show, moving effectively and delicately and ensuring that the next generation of NBA hoops stars will be championing the shoe giant’s brand. According to a 2019 report on Kentuckysportsradio.com, Michael Avenatti claims that the shoe company started courting Emoni Bates when he was only 13 years old.
“Last week, Yahoo Sports released a series of texts between Nike EYBL executives from February 2017 discussing deals for three players: Zion Williamson, Romeo Langford, and an unnamed prospect from Michigan whose name was redacted because he’s a minor. As suspected, Yahoo is now reporting that player is Bates, who was only two weeks past his 13th birthday and a seventh-grader at the time. Bates, now 15, has been called the best player in high school basketball, and is expected to make the jump directly to the pros in 2022 should the one-and-done rule go by the wayside.
— SLAM (@SLAMonline) April 14, 2020
In the texts, the Nike executives discuss how much it will take to sponsor the AAU team that Bates’ father ran, batting around the figure of “15.” Documents don’t show that the offer was ever made, and Bates’ father told Yahoo Sports that the team, Bates Fundamental, didn’t join the EYBL until 2018, a year after the texts were sent.
KSR added: “Considering Bates probably won’t even play college basketball and even if he did, NCAA rules allow a shoe company to hire a parent to operate and/or coach an AAU team if it’s an honest employment situation, these claims are no big deal; however, discussing deals for 13-year-old kids is yet another reminder of how seedy grassroots basketball can be.”
Maybe. But all The Bates Family did was follow the blueprint that Lavar Ball started with parents taking control of their son’s finances and destiny — especially when you have the goods. This is chess not checkers and we know that the pariahs of the hoops world will eat a kid up, exploit him and spit him out for a dollar, then keep it moving to the next victim…er…high-priced recruit.
I mean, if they are saying, you’re better than LeBron James, then you don’t need anybody but yourself to get paid. Emoni’s pops E. J.” Bates knows the game and the way the circuit works. E.J. played NCAA Division II basketball for Kentucky Wesleyan and played professionally for five years in Germany and Switzerland. E. J. manages the basketball training organization Bates Fundamentals and coaches its affiliated AAU team.
Better Than Bron
Bates – rated as the nation’s top prep player – is now the fourth player to win the POY award from Michigan joining Torbert, Chris Webber (Detroit Country Day, 1990-1991) and LaVell Blanchard (Ann Arbor Pioneer, 1998-1999).
The award, which has been given to the nation’s best player since 1986, puts Bates in an exclusive group of basketball bullies, placing him in the same realm at this point in his career as NBA greats Kobe Bryant and LeBron James and Jayson Tatum, who is cool with Bates.
Past winners of the honor have combined for five NBA MVPs, 69 All-Stars nominations and 26 first-round draft picks.
Like Biggie said, “ Sky is the limit.”
Expansion Of LaVar Ball Blue Print
The knowledge Lavar Ball was dropping didn’t go unheard. A movement is happening in player empowerment for the top high school players in the country. In the past, Bates would have stayed in high school two more years (even if he transferred to a prep school) and then went to Michigan State with all of the fanfare of a new King arriving but received very little in terms of monetary gain while generating millions for the school, TV, cable, coach, anybody attached to the brand.
You saw the Zion effect at Duke. He was a cash cow. Some still don’t feel they got their proper cut of the Zion brand. Recently, his former agent accused Zion of getting paid by Adidas and Nike on behalf of Duke.
NEW: Zion Williamson’s former marketing agent has served requests for admission in their lawsuit asking him to admit that he received “money, benefits, favors or other things of value” to attend Duke University and to wear and/or use Nike and Adidas.
Wow. That escalated quickly. pic.twitter.com/59gWX5bNKX
— Daniel Wallach (@WALLACHLEGAL) May 10, 2020
Because we now understand the true culture of business in billion-dollar NCAA hoops, we really don’t care if he got paid. The consensus opinion is that he deserved every dime.
The sneaker wars between the major brands are forever deeply embedded in the capitalistic chronicles of the American hoops experience. De La told you the stakes is high 24 years ago. Blue chips showed you how wild the business of basketball gets at the college level. LaVar Ball was tired of players being exploited and getting nothing out of it. So his mantra was “Control your own destiny.”
Build It And They Come
That’s what Memphis Grizzlies forward Josh Jackson’s mom did when she came up with the blueprint for rising powerhouse Prolific Prep, which is now the home of future NBA lottery pick Jalen Green.
That’s what Emoni Bates’ Dad EJ is doing by starting a prep school called YPSI Prep Academy, where he will also coach his son. There are sources who say that the academy is actually funded through Nike. This tells you that Emoni Bates was ahead of the game and part of a new trend brewing where parents are getting funding to open their own Prep schools to provide their kids with the perfect competitive atmosphere to excel at the next level.
If you keep it a buck, sneaker companies like Nike and Adidas have contributed to the player empowerment we see today. It’s a thin line between nefarious dealings and masterful execution, but no longer are the players sitting idly while big business decides their fate.
Bates doesn’t have to play at Michigan State. He’s the No. 1 Draft prospect right now as a 16-year-old. He’s that special. By the time his tenure at his personal prep palace is complete, the NBA’s one-and-done rule will probably be no more and he will be able to go right into the pros. The NCAA’s only hope is that the rule doesn’t get reversed and a one-year stint at well over a half a mill in the G-League is less tempting than playing one season in from of his home town at MSU and still making money off of his likeness.
Aren’t the best players in the country supposed to have those kinds of options? Of course and with so many parts moving 24-7 in this basketball rat race, the gems and major revenue generators in this billion-dollar industry have to stay ahead of the game and in a position to WIN, NOW. That’s the true American Dream. No time to defer it.