And who can blame these guys? UCLA juniors Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry have brought the Bruins back to national prominence, playing in Pauley Pavilion, eyeballed by CAA agents, rather than in the CAA ( Continental Airlines Arena), eyeballed by Paulie Walnuts. Given the choice—NBA or college—who wouldn't prefer to defer one's working life for as long as possible?
Where would forward DeShawn Stevenson rather be: playing at Princeton, where he's now a senior, or rotting on the bench for some NBA also-ran, a pituitary pawn on an oversized chessboard?
All of these men made the right decision. The NBA will be there, as Tracy McGrady (now in his third professional year), Kobe Bryant (in his fourth) and Kevin Garnett (in his fifth) discovered after unforgettable college careers that are now consigned to ESPN Classic. The 1998 title game, in which Duke's backcourt ( Bryant, Trajan Langdon) was overwhelmed in overtime by Michigan's frontcourt (Garnett, Tractor Traylor), remains the highest-rated in history.
More important, these players are given a social polish in college that becomes essential as they segue into adulthood. (You don't see Kobe's name in any police blotters, and you're not about to, either.) So savor the senior seasons of T.J. Ford (at Texas), Mike Sweetney (at Georgetown) and Luke Ridnour (at Oregon), while the NBA desperately tries to flog its all-rookie showdown: Darko versus Zarko.
College basketball just gets better every year. There's something quaint about Dick Vitale calling LeBron a Diaper Dandy. It's reassuring to see a meal ticket like 'Melo playing only for meal money. So enjoy it while you can, fans, because nothing this good lasts forever.
Even now, it seems almost too good to be true.