• Villanova Sports Law Blog

Possible Implications of Darius Bazley’s Contract with New Balance

By Thomas Dunn


Throughout high school, Darius Bazley was a highly recruited basketball star with dreams of playing in the NBA. The natural route for the most elite high school players is playing one year in the NCAA and then entering the NBA draft under the one-and-done rule. The one-and-done rule requires that a player be 19 years old and one year removed from high school to be eligible for the NBA draft. [1] Playing at least one year in the NCAA seemed to be a foregone conclusion for most elite players, until Bazley took an uncommon approach in deciding not to attend Syracuse, and instead opt to play in the NBA G League.


The NBA G League recently announced its new salary-cap structure, which allows for 18-year-old high school graduates to make $125K per year playing in the G League as an alternative to the one-and-done rule.[2] For many players, this seems like a promising path since the NCAA does not compensate players and this type of compensation in the NCAA’s current structure would inevitably lead to violations.


Since de-committing from Syracuse and opting for the G League, Bazley has taken another route less traveled by forgoing the NBA G League altogether. Instead, Bazley signed with New Balance as an intern on a guaranteed 5-year, $1 million deal that has performance-based incentives of up to $14 million.[3]


Bazley's contract could mark a drastic change in the college basketball landscape, where the door is now open for elite high school players to sign contracts with shoe companies that have potential for large incentives. Instead of having to spend a year playing in the NCAA, where student-athletes are expected to go uncompensated for their contributions to their respective universities, elite players now have a means to gain financial protection by signing a guaranteed contract with a shoe company.


New Balance’s contract could have the potential of limiting NCAA scandals involving blue-chip schools. Recently, Adidas representatives at high-profile schools such as Kansas and Louisville were convicted of wire fraud for providing money to recruits in exchange for playing at Adidas sponsored schools.[4] The scandal comes as a black eye to college basketball, which has been openly scrutinized after coaches were also discovered to be involved in providing improper benefits to recruits over recent years.

The ability to sign players to endorsement contracts as internships with lucrative incentives may help shoe companies avoid NCAA violations. These contracts could have the potential of minimizing the number of pay-for-play scandals, since elite high school players will no longer be under the umbrella of the NCAA.


Other foreseeable changes are that Bazley’s deal could push the NBA G League to grow and offer players more money out of high school to compete with the more lucrative option of signing with a shoe company. While the G League has just restructured what they will be paying players straight out of high school, there may be more reforms needed to the rules to make it more enticing for high school graduates to join the G League.


For the first time since the one-and-done rule was implemented, there is now a freer economy in the United States for elite high school players to earn more money than they have in the past.[5] Elite high school players such as Brandon Jennings and Emmanuel Mudiay opted to play overseas for a year before entering the NBA Draft to secure their financial situations.[6]


Now, elite high school players can weigh their options in the United States and decide what makes sense not only financially, but also educationally. Players are not forced to enter the G League or sign a contract with a shoe company, and still have the ability to play in the NCAA and earn a degree if they so desire. But for the first time in a long time, players finally have the control to decide their own future here in the United States, and that decision cannot be taken away by the NCAA or NBA.



[1] Pierce, Charles P., Who Are the Suckers in the NCAA? The “Professional Path” Program Will Show Them in Plain Sight, Sports Illustrated (Oct. 24, 2018), https://www.si.com/nba/2018/10/24/nba-draft-ncaa-basketball-g-league-professional-path-salary

[2] Id.

[3] ESPN News Services, Rich Paul: Darius Bazley’s $1 million internship a by-product of ‘broken system’, ESPN (Oct. 25, 2018), http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/25074140/rich-paul-darius-bazley-1-million-internship-result-broken-system

[4] Schlabach, Mark, James Gatto, Merl Code, and Christian Dawkins found guilty in pay-for-play trial, ESPN (Oct. 25, 2018), http://www.espn.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/25072946/james-gatto-merl-code-christian-dawkins-found-guilty-college-basketball-pay-play-trial

[5] Pierce, Charles, Who Are the Suckers in the NCAA? The “Professional Path” Program Will Show Them in Plain Sight, Sports Illustrated (Oct. 24, 2018), https://www.si.com/nba/2018/10/24/nba-draft-ncaa-basketball-g-league-professional-path-salary

[6] ESPN News Services, Rich Paul: Darius Bazley’s $1 million internship a by-product of ‘broken system’, ESPN (Oct. 25, 2018), http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/25074140/rich-paul-darius-bazley-1-million-internship-result-broken-system