At least a dozen people sent me this article, from various sources, in which Kobe Bryant criticizes basketball players that have come up playing AAU Basketball, while praising the European players for being more skilled in the techniques of the game. As Kobe played seven years of youth ball here in Italy while his father was playing in Italy’s A-2 division, he’s quite familiar with the teaching done at the youth level in Europe. But the main thrust of his comments regarded AAU Basketball.
San Antonio Spurs. He mentions how the San Antonio Spurs won the NBA title last year with a team made up, mostly, of ‘international’ players: Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Thiago Splitter, Marco Belinelli, Boris Diaw, etc., and some Americans that had played in Europe, like Danny Green. And, if I am not mistaken, Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich will not have a player on his team if that guy played AAU Basketball. I cannot say that with 100% certainty but I don’t think he has any AAU products on his roster, be that by design or not.
Several years ago, Sports Illustrated (I believe) did a story on high school kids playing AAU Basketball in the summer months, like 60 games in 60 days. It mentioned how the players (a) don’t learn because they are playing games all the time, as opposed to practicing to improve their skills; (b) they lose their competitive edge because who cares if we lose today because there is another game tomorrow; (c) the high school coach has lost his rightful importance and has been replaced by an AAU coach, who may or may not be the right influence on the player and may be ‘selling’ him.
NCAA. After the 1951 Fixing Scandal, the NCAA came down hard: “No more games in New York City.” After the 1961 Fixing Scandal, the NCAA came down hard again, outlawing all summer basketball for NCAA players. Maybe it’s time for the NCAA to come down hard again. Here is ny own personal scoreboard: I have 100% faith in NCAA Basketball and 0% faith in AAU Basketball; I have 100% faith in high school coaches and 0% faith in AAU coaches. Like Kobe says, this is a complicated mess. I’d love to see the NCAA un-complicate it all, with all their might.