Monday, July 24th, 2006 at 3:04 pm  |  15 responses

Sneaker Wars

Shining a light on the mess that summer hoops can be.

by Lang Whitaker

The Boston Globe is in the midst of a three-part series about the mess that can be youth basketball, AAU, shoe companies and all that stuff.

For those of us that have followed high school hoops for a while, even casually, this is hardly groundbreaking stuff. It’s pretty much impossible to know anything about prep hoops, particularly the whole summer scene, without hearing that this guy jumped from that team or this guy is getting free stuff or whatever.

The Globe‘s series focuses on TJ Gassnola, a guy who runs an adidas-sponsored team in Boston and is completing with a Nike-sponsored team. It’s a well-researched and interesting read, and if this is your first look at the way all of this works it’ll probably take you by surprise.

Part One is here
Part Two is here

The thing is, though, it’s a good bet that nothing is going to happen because of these stories. The stories all point out that there’s nothing technically wrong by NCAA standards with what’s going on. Sure, some kid might lose his eligibility or have a high school athletics board do a double-take at his transcripts, but at the end of the day the system is like this (and has been like this for about a decade) because it works for most of the people involved. The shoe companies are associated with big name players, college teams get players who are better than they would’ve been otherwise, the NCAA gets billions for showing these guys perform during March Madness, and even the NBA turns a blind eye because the whole summer circuit helps further develop the players before they turn pro.

It’s a huge mess — even Sonny Vacarro refers to it as a cesspool in one of the stories before adding that he makes a great living from it.

But until the NCAA decides that it wants to do something about all of this, the stories will keep on coming.

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  • mutoni

    i want the shoes in the pic

  • http://slamonline.com Ryan Jones

    The NCAA & NBA could fix this sh*t in two seconds flat if they wanted to. But they don’t, ’cause they’re too busy getting paid.

    And c’mon, mutoni,$100 bills on clothing is so 2004…

  • http://benchrenaldo.blogspot.com mutoni

    ryan, i never claimed to be with the times.

  • Simmy Sosa

    It seems like Gassnola is the Suge Knight of recruiters.

  • Brendan

    Ive read both of them, and really dont see what the big deal is. Both columns are up in arms about kids getting “exploited.” I just dont see that. The kids get free money and tons of gear, and get to play in tournaments all over the country that they want to play in. I had some friends who did the same in high school and they absolutely loved it. The only way the kids can get exploited is by losin out on schoolwork, and as the article points out, most of the kids are helped by the programs to get into better schools and, eventually, college. How r the kids really gettin exploited? I think there may be an underlyin racial element that the mostly white media that is up in arms, is upset that the programs ultimate let black kids get into college that might not have been able to previous, and then these colleges, which the columnist might have attended, possibly get there institutions tarnished by these “wild black kids” who “never go to class and devalue college education.” But maybe im just reachin there…

  • Mighty

    I saw that shoe on the DVD of “Just Kicks” that shoe is worth $1200 i think….or maybe those were the 2pac ones…russ and scoop were in there too!

  • Matt Wens

    my friend has a pair of AF!’s like that, not totally money tho.. $200 odd delivered to australia from ebay

  • KFash

    New England Playaz is wild corny. I wouldn’t join off the strength of that alone.

  • Robert

    $200 Forces on Ebay Damn Whens my next paycheck comin in

  • http://www.JORDANHEADSMOVIE.com Jordan Head

    Brendan hit it on the nail….very hard. Couldn’t have said it better.

  • Joe

    From TJ Gassnola to Mike Krzyzewski, coaches all recite from the same playbook: part-teacher, part-philanthropist, they’re only interested in helping the kids. Which is true, as long as the kids have the skills necessary to help them win basketball games. The kids that participate in the highest levels of AAU basketball travel the country, receive free shoes and apparel, and play against top competition. Most will play ball in college, and some will play professionally. I wouldn’t mind doing that …

    So — who are the victims here? I don’t see any. AAU is what it is, and I imagine most people involved (coaches, players, parents) understand that. Articles like this one pop up in one newspaper or another every summer, and the real story is always the same: one AAU coach complaining about another AAU coach stealing his players. Who cares?

  • http://yahoo kurt

    joe is incorrect…….it’s the coaches who’s the friggin prob

  • http://slamonline.com/online/2006/07/sneaker-wars/ big jeff

    those are the fakest uptowns ive ever seen

  • http://slamonline.com/online/2006/07/sneaker-wars/ big jeff

    if you think nike really released those you are stupid they don’t even good any way

  • iceman7215

    hey ryan jones, would those shoes look better with a 100 of your faces on it? those shoes are hot!