Men's College Basketball: Five Stars Who Could Have Benefitted Most From NIL Ruling | GMTM

Men's College Basketball: Five Stars Who Could Have Benefitted Most From NIL Ruling

ByBryan Armetta

Published on Thu Jul 22 2021


4 min read

Men's College Basketball: Five Stars Who Could Have Benefitted Most From NIL Ruling

In the aftermath of a July ruling by the NCAA allowing for athletes to profit off of their name, image, and likeness, the entire fabric of collegiate sports has been altered.

Following the decision, numerous student-athletes have embarked on personal branding and advertising campaigns overnight. However, for the generations of players that preceded them, making any kind of profit while in college was practically impossible.

Having already covered which college football players may have made bank, it makes sense to turn to basketball, arguably the sport with the most potential for nationwide marketing.

*All statistics and records courtesy of Basketball Reference.

Zion Williamson - Duke

The most recent player to grace this list, Zion Williamson seemed destined for stardom ever since high school, where his freakish athleticism and dunking prowess made him a viral sensation. At Duke, he met the hype...and then some. During his lone season in Durham, the 6'7 power forward averaged 22.6 points per game to go along with 8.9 rebounds on a ridiculously efficient 68

field goal percentage.

Had he been allowed to market himself in college, there is no telling what kind of market-setting deal Zion could have struck. His current five-year, $75 million dollar shoe deal with the Jordan brand, signed almost immediately following his selection by the New Orleans Pelicans in the NBA Draft, is a good precedent. However, it would have been interesting to see just how much cash the most electrifying college basketball player of the last decade could have drawn in.

Magic Johnson - Michigan State

Before he became arguably the face of the NBA in the 1980's (alongside friend and rival Larry Bird), Earvin "Magic" Johnson was a young kid from Lansing, Michigan who joined his hometown school in Michigan State. After a mediocre 10-17 season, the Spartans were elevated by their star freshman's all-around game, which saw them reach the Elite Eight in 1978. Johnson was gifted with exceptional passing and ball handling skills, yet his large 6'8 frame also gave him the ability to grab rebounds and finish inside the paint. Unlike virtually any other point guard the sport had seen, Magic's virtuoso play style and charming personality made him one of the most popular basketball players in America, professional or otherwise.

The following year, Johnson and MSU won the first national championship in school history against Bird and Indiana State. The win capped off a remarkable collegiate career that saw Magic flirt with a triple-double on the season, and etched his name into a multitude of Michigan State and NCAA records.

It is difficult to envision a scenario where Johnson doesn't become an even bigger household name if today's NIL rules were in place during his era. A proven commodity based off of his time in the NBA with the Los Angeles Lakers, Magic could have solidified himself as the face of the sport much earlier through marketing campaigns designed around both his otherworldly talent and trademark smile.

Patrick Ewing - Georgetown

While wholesome guys like Magic Johnson have been known to sell, there is another side to every coin. For college basketball in the 1980's, there was no greater villain than Georgetown. At the head of the school's first (and only) National Championship in 1984 was Patrick Ewing. The tall, lanky shot-blocking menace helped transform the fabric of the Hoyas to that of a gritty, defensive-minded team, bringing with him toughness and competitiveness that carried over on both ends of the court.

Although many fans hated Georgetown, with many opposing Big East fans directing racist insults at the team, that didn't mean they weren't popular. Their dominant, physical game attracted many supporters, especially Black Americans who identified with the squad's unapologetic nature on and off the court. Ewing himself proved to be a merchandising innovator. In 1989, he became the first player to own the majority of his own company, Ewing Athletics, and soon released the iconic 33 Hi sneakers onto the market in 1990. With NIL rulings in place, Hoya-themed shoes from Big Pat could have stocked shelves across the country.

Jimmer Fredette - Brigham Young

In 2011, Jimmer Fredette became the most talked about player in college basketball. Averaging a mind-boggling 28.9 points per game during his senior year, the BYU star's sharp-shooting carried the Cougars to the best season in school history. A stellar 32-5 record, along with a Mountain West Conference regular season championship, earned BYU a #3 seed in the tournament, where they would eventually get taken down by #2 Florida in the Sweet Sixteen.

Despite BYU's early exit, Fredette's popularity only grew during the team's unprecedented run to the NCAA Tourney. Whether it was BYU fans in Provo camping out for days in the snow to catch a game or a Sports Illustrated cover, it seemed as if the entire universe was entranced with the phenomenon that was Jimmermania. While it may seem like a minor fad nowadays, it's difficult to remember a time when a player from BYU was able draw national headlines the way Jimmer did. In the midst of his breakout season, there is no question that Fredette would have drawn in a slew of sponsors in today's NIL environment.

Christian Laettner - Duke

If Patrick Ewing represented the face of the most hated team of the 1980's, Christian Laettner represents arguably the most hated school in all of college basketball. During his four years in college, Laettner helped Duke transform itself from a top program into a hardwood empire. From Laettner's arrival in 1988 to his departure in 1992, the Blue Devils reached the Final Four each season and won the first two National Championships in school history. It wasn't just the constant winning that made fans despise Laettner; his cockiness (some would call arrogance), occasional dirty play, and good looks inspired vitriol towards both him and the seemingly privileged institution he represented. In Kentucky, that anger is even greater.

Regardless of how the nation at large may have felt about him, Laettner was someone who made for a great villain and a person that everyone outside of Duke could root against. His consistent winning at one of the richest schools in the country, combined with his brash personality, could have brought in barrels of cash for the 6'11 center. On top of that, being the only collegiate member of the 1992 Dream Team would have boosted his brand even further. Laettner may have been public enemy number one while at Duke, but an ability to use that image as part of a national advertising campaign could have made his time in college even more painful for thousands of devoted haters.

Honorable Mentions: Allen Iverson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Kemba Walker, Tyler Hansbrough, J.J. Redick, Clyde Drexler, David Thompson, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Webber, Pete Maravich, Adam Morrison

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