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Why Do We Hate The Idea of Basketball Players Controlling Their Own Destiny?

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One-and-done. Two-and-done. Transfers. Grad transfers. Big money free agency. For those who want the old way of doing things, it's a worst-case scenario. For those who want to see basketball players control their own destiny, it's what we've been waiting for.

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

We have a system here.

That system is pretty simple. You're lucky to be here. You should always remember that. You should do what you're told. Above all, you should be "loyal." We'll let you know when we're done with you.

That system has, for the most part, worked out well for certain parties of the sports world. Specifically, owners, universities and fans. The system has helped to create a status quo for all of those parties. Team owners and universities were able to control the players and what their career looked like. Fans got to feel a sense of connection with players, a faux sense that they care about [CITY] like we do and bleed [TEAM COLORS] like us.

Players have been chipping away at that system for decades, for sure. They started leaving college after three years, then two, then one. NBA stars chased bigger contracts and better situations as the salary cap grew and the league expanded. The more opportunities in the pros, the less anyone wanted to spend time toiling at the college level for free*.

Here at Syracuse we've been feeling the effects of this transition and it's been a hard adjustment for many in the fanbase. While a few greats left early along the way (Pearl Washington, Billy Owens, etc.), it was Carmelo Anthony who spoiled us by winning a National Title in his one and only season here. It was like setting the bar at such an unattainably-high level that everyone who followed him would almost certainly fall short and disappoint us.

Donte Greene was the poster child for this, not only because he left after a season where SU failed to even make the NCAA Tournament, let alone win it, but also because "he shouldn't have gone." We all felt it. We all knew it. Donte was wrong to leave so soon and we were angry with him for disobeying. He was working outside of the system and we made him pay the price with our scorn. Way too many of us took pleasure in the way his NBA career floundered.

Over the years, we started to get used to the idea of players leaving early. Now, it's became abundantly clear that the very best who come to SU won't be here more than two years. Lawrence Moten's scoring record might as well be set in stone.

Still, there are plenty in the fanbase who cannot fathom this new way of doing things. It doesn't make sense. You come to Syracuse because, we assume, you love Syracuse like we do. You play for Syracuse because, like us, you want to see Syracuse succeed. You stay at Syracuse for as long as you can because you want to be an Orange legend and you want to do it for us.

Only, none of that is true. Very few basketball players who come to Syracuse do so because they love the university or program. Most of them are here because of what it means to play for Syracuse. It's a place where you'll be highly visible and get a clear path to the NBA. Put in the work while here and it'll pay off very quickly.

The goal is not to be a Syracuse basketball player. The goal is to be a professional basketball player. And once you're a professional, the goal is to make money so that you feel like you're being compensated fairly for your talents. It's no different to you and I, whether you're an accountant or a writer or a police officer. And whether or not someone else thinks you deserve that raise, if a boss is going to offer you one, you're probably going to take it. Especially when you know the person offering you that money is probably making way more than that themselves.

Of course, we get weird when we apply obvious life concepts to sports. That's because of the aforementioned system. The system is not there for personal gain or maximizing your value. The system is about you proving to us (owners/schools/fans) how much you respect and value us. We pay your salary, so to speak. So when NBA players started cashing in during the latest free agency period, we freaked the fuck out.

Since the NBA's free agency period began on July 1, everywhere you turn, someone is yelling about how much money NBA players are making. Athletes are always being excoriated for how much they are paid, but I've never seen anything like this. People are mad. You would think that Timofey Mozgov and Matthew Dellavedova and Rajon Rondo were convicted criminals who stole thousands of innocent people's retirement plans. Because rising revenues caused the salary cap to jump so much this year -- something commissioner Adam Silver had tried to prevent but was thwarted by players union chief Michele Roberts -- there's a ton of money to spend, and owners are spending it.

Nevermind that these rising salaries remain just a fraction of the revenues teams are taking in thanks to a $24 billion television deal, and never mind the fact that rookies are insanely-underpaid given the current conditions, we did not agree to this financial shift and therefore it seems "unfair."

This is outside of the system.

We don't think anything of billionaire owners raking in that money. They've "earned" it. But a bench player who averages 8.0 points per game, who is among the most elite basketball players in the world? That guy hasn't earned shit.

It's not just the pros where this is felt. Obviously, underclassmen leaving early are causing consternation in college basketball, but don't sleep on the animosity being thrown at transfers. It's obvious to see why when you put it in terms of the system. In the system, loyalty trumps personal control. Transferring is an attempt at controlling your destiny within a construct that works against that (The NCAA). It punishes you for changing your mind (even though any other college student can do it freely). We assume something is wrong if you're transferring. You're a glory boy upset about playing time or you rubbed the coach the wrong way, Never mind that coach can come and go as they please leaving the player in the lurch (as they often do).

As Ryan Blackwell, Wes Johnson, Michael Gbinije and other Syracuse players can attest, those character concerns are a whole lot of nothing.

Then there's grad transfers. One of the newer ways that basketball players can exert some control over their careers lets them continue playing in an attempt to eventually go pro while also pursuing a graduate degree. Who could possibly be against that? Oh, plenty of people, who see it as a loophole that brings free agency to college sports. Maybe, but then again...let's wake up and admit college sports are a business whether you like it or not. We can deny that fact by denying proper compensation to athletes, as if that proves the point like a snake eating it's own tail. It doesn't feel "right" according to the system, even if it accomplishes everything the NCAA says it's about (furthering education).

Syracuse basketball is about to feel the effects of the grad transfer rule with at least one new face (possibly two). So any Orange fan who feels as though the rule is unfair would do best to keep that to themselves for the time being. You can't get mad at Malachi Richardson for leaving after one season but also say John Gillon did the right thing.

They both did the same thing, what was best for themselves. Syracuse played it's part for both of them.

One-and-done. Two-and-done. Transfers. Grad transfers. Big money free agency. Each of them has changed the face of the sport and each of them has taken a hammer to "the system." Some see them as terrible actions that have ruined the game. However, all of them have done wonders to give basketball players control over their own destiny. Not to say that bad decisions haven't been made, but at least players have the right to make those bad decisions just like the rest of us.

Is it crazy when good-not-great freshman declare for the NBA Draft? Yeah.

Are some of the contracts being thrown around for mediocre bench players nutty? Of course.

Are either of those things ruining the game? Not at all. Just changing it.

Are either of those things ruining the system and giving athletes control over their own careers? Absolutely, and it's about time.