SNIDER: Duke’s Williamson owes teammates, fans to return

Rick Snider
February 22, 2019 - 12:47 pm

Nothing better displays the selfishness caused by today’s big money in sports than the debate over Zion Williamson’s future.

The Duke superstar suffered a mildly sprained knee after his shoe inexplicably ripped apart on Wednesday. Just a freak thing, but Williamson is sidelined until his knee heals.

Immediately, some NBA players and commentators said Williamson should never play college ball again. He should just wait for the coming NBA draft where Williamson will be a top three pick regardless of how he’d play in the coming NCAA Tournament.

That’s nonsense.

If healthy, Williamson owes his teammates and fans to return. To win a championship. They’ve invested in Williamson, he needs to return the effort.

NBA general managers will look hard at Williamson’s decision. Is he a selfish person looking out only for himself? Well, maybe better to move on to another player. And Williamson may not appreciate it now, but his time at Duke will forever be tainted if voluntarily sitting out. That’s not a good look.

That colleges exploit players is undisputed. Williamson doesn’t owe the NCAA anything. He owes teammates and fans. Meanwhile, the tournament will be just fine without him.

This nonsense of making players wait until they’re 19-years old before eligible for the NBA draft should be ended by lawyers. The NBA and NCAA are complicit in restraint of Williamson and many others from making at living as legal adults at 18. The NCAA is essentially a farm system for the NBA so the latter provides college with good players to market.

How is this permitted in the courts? In reality, only a handful of players annually are truly impacted. The NCAA eased up recently by allowing undrafted players to return to college rather than forgo remaining eligibility for a chance to go pro. It now needs to let freshman try a pro career first.

But this attitude of Williamson not owing anything is selfish. Hopefully, he realizes it and returns once healthy.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks