Sports social media. It is a crazy, mysterious, and (sometimes) frightening internet wormhole to venture in. There's the good part of it (where I believe most people reside) and then there's the bad.
With the announcement that Skal Labissiere is keeping his name in the NBA Draft, there was an influx of the good and the bad. I was excited to see the well-wishes of many members of the BBN, expressing their support for Skal and wishing him a long and happy career. They thanked him for his time in Lexington and encouraged him to come back for a visit if he ever got the chance.
Did every single one of them want him to leave? I doubt it. Do all of them believe he is ready for the NBA? Probably not. They supported him though, and they supported him in what I am sure was a difficult decision.
Then there's the other side.
The side that scolds a 20-year-old college student for chasing his dream. The people that believe that this 6'11 basketball player from Port au-Prince Haiti owes them something. The NBA Draft "experts" that know, without a shadow of a doubt, that he should've stayed because he will not make it in the league by going now. This other side bashed a guy who has overcame unbelievable odds to even make it to this point in his career for wanting to earn millions of dollars and play the game he loves at a professional level.
Let's also remember that Skal came from Haiti, and you all already know the story about surviving the earthquake there. If you want to read about it, here is a great story from Sports Illustrated's Luke Winn. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the entire world, and with the connection he has to the area, he could even use some of his earnings to benefit the country (there has been nothing reported on that, to my knowledge. That was simply a theoretical possibility).
The worst part? Most of these people were "Kentucky fans," and I use that term very lightly. On that same note, trust me, these future recruits see the way fans react to announcements like these and take notice.
I don't understand the point of this at all. Do these people really think that if they send out a hate-filled message that all of a sudden, they are going to make a career-defining decision on a whim because someone they've never met--or even heard of-- called them stupid on Twitter?
There are no positive circumstances that come from sending these hateful, rude, and angry tweets at college kids trying to make a better life for themselves and their families.
I'll be the first to admit, I can be a little selfish. I would love to see guys return and team up with the incoming recruits to create a star-studded college basketball team that could go on a path to a national championship.
With that being said, I also understand and acknowledge the lure of the NBA. I'm a college student, and most of us do not have a couple million dollars laying around. We're doing well to have a few extra dollars, period.
If someone were to come in and offer me a job for a guaranteed two years (with the possibility of extensions), and in those two years I could make over a million dollars per year (even as much as $4 million), I would jump all over it and you would too. You would be crazy not to.
You may say, "he isn't ready. He needs to come back and improve, then enter next year." This is a logical argument, and it works for some, but that argument is not one-size-fits-all, and it does not apply to Skal. It does not apply for two reasons.
1. The 2016 draft class is not as loaded as 2017 could potentially be.
The 2016 recruiting class of high school seniors is loaded with five-star talents, and while many may not pan out in their first year of college, many will. Recruiting experts have touted the star power of this class, and many of those players will be first-round picks in 2017.
This year's class has its share of talent, but Skal would most likely be drafted higher in this draft than he would next year. Most projections have him in the lottery, and theoretically, he could come back and improve only to see little fluctuation in his draft position (possibly even falling lower).
2. If he comes back and does not improve, he isn't a first-round pick.
This means everything. Most players are advised to proceed with caution if they enter the NBA draft and are projected as second-round picks, and for good reason. Second-round picks are not offered guaranteed contracts and many find themselves in the Development League.
If Skal comes back and does not make major strides, the element of potential becomes immediately removed from the eyes of NBA scouts and Skal could free-fall into the second round. All of a sudden, there is no guaranteed contract and millions of dollars are lost.
I'm not saying that I know how Skal's NBA career will end up. I believe it is important for him to go to a team that is willing to exercise patience with him, that has veteran players he can learn from, and strong coaching. Where he goes will play a major factor in how his NBA career will pan out.
Nonetheless, he has made his decision and it's time for the Big Blue Nation to support him in this endeavor. He is a great guy that has been very appreciative of his experience in Lexington, as evidenced by his Instagram announcement.
I want to thank my family, coaches, and teammates for everything. And most importantly I want to thank God for allowing me to wear that jersey and play for the best college program in the country. This past year I had the chance to make new friends and build relationships that I will forever cherish and for that I am very grateful. I want to also thank the fans for their continued support throughout the season. It was an honor experiencing the best fan base in college basketball. Although my time in Lexington was very brief I know that I will forever have a home here. THANK YOU. #BBN #GOCATS#OnToTheNextChapter #NBA
So good luck to you Skal Labissiere. I hope you make all of us Kentucky fans proud and have a long, successful NBA career. We wish you the best and support you as you take this next step. We were glad to have you in a Wildcats uniform.