Earlier this year, a basketball prospect named Darius Bazley made headlines by announcing that he would forgo his college eligibility and play in the NBA’s minor league, the G League. These are waters that have been tested before, but no one has ever quite taken the plunge like Bazley. In the greater basketball landscape, the G League represents something like a last resort: The league is not glamorous and the money is unquestionably lower than a young prospect’s market value. So Bazley became an unlikely trailblazer for those who aren't interested in chasing a professional contract overseas.
How Basketball Prospect Darius Bazley Reinvented the Internship
An open mind yielded an unprecedented opportunity
Even though the G League has announced changes to its financial structure, Bazley ultimately decided against competing in the league, deciding that his year was better spent preparing for the 2019 Draft privately. (Bazley was ineligible to enter 2018’s draft because of the NBA’s age limit restriction). But Bazley ended up forging a new path for young athletes anyway—the New York Times’ Marc Stein reported earlier today that Bazley accepted an endorsement deal from New Balance, guaranteeing the young player $1M no matter the outcome of his pro career and up to $14M if he triggers certain performance incentives.
But the most fun twist about the agreement is that Bazley will intern at New Balance’s corporate office—he even has a cubicle.
The whole saga hints at an exciting new frontier for young athletes with large social followings and nascent brands. Under the guidance of Rich Paul—the super-agent who also represents enterprising NBA players LeBron James and Ben Simmons—Bazley found an unconventional way to earn something much closer to his market value than the G League (or hell, even the NBA, if he were eligible) might have provided. It was clear that Bazley had an open mind when it came to his future: It's exciting to think about what other opportunities might arise for young and visible athletes that allow them to keep honing the craft while earning as a professional.
“In this industry, there haven’t been a lot of options for these kids and their families," Paul told the Times. "More people would challenge the system, but there hasn’t been a real success story yet. Darius has an opportunity to be that success story.”
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