There is a new basketball minor league coming to a city near you – the American Basketball League. No, I am not talking about the defunct ABL that played back in the 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s or the one from the 60s. No, I’m not talking about the women’s ABL from the late 90s. This is a brand new minor league.
The league website shows 13 different teams, all in either Florida or Texas. Game play begins in December or January, and teams are building their rosters right now. The league understands that failed basketball leagues are a dime a dozen, but management thinks they have it right. We’ll see.
Is the NBA happy about this? One on hand, the new ABL is direct competition for the D-League. One the other hand, the D-League only has two teams in Texas and none in Florida. These two leagues don’t overlap geographically.
The real potential loser is NCAA basketball. What if a blue chip high school player decides to go straight to the ABL. He can play a year against good players and get paid ($3,000/month) doing it. Furthermore, he can sign with an agent who will subsidize his lifestyle as the player waits to be eligible for the NBA. Players can do this now, but the ABL just creates more opportunities for players to avoid the college route to the NBA.
If the ABL or D-League ever has a high quality of competition, then college basketball would change forever. Look at college hockey and baseball. These are great sports, but the best hockey players don’t go to college. They rise through the junior and minor league system of hockey. The same is true of the best high school baseball players. If basketball had a viable minor league system, college basketball would be changed dramatically. The bad news for the ABL is that it must compete with a strong college programs for good players. That won’t be easy.