Charles Barkley made an interesting argument on Inside the NBA on Monday. While discussing Bronny James' latest Sierra Canyon game on ESPN, Barkley wondered how we reconcile high school sports being broadcast nationally while there is an argument about whether or not (or even how) college athletes should be paid. Is it the same thing? Barkley called it the "ultimate exploitation" with Kenny Smith agreeing with his point.
It's interesting that Shaq, the only one on the panel who raised a star athlete, is on the side of letting the kids play on television. I'm sure Shareef had a few games on national television, but does anyone remember?
LeBron James had a high school game shown on ESPN nearly two decades ago. By now, this is probably just the new normal. Besides, these games aren't getting good enough ratings to make enough money to get in the same conversation as how much money Trevor Lawrence and Joe Burrow missed out on in last week's National Championship Game.
If these kids enjoy the exposure and think it's cool to be on TV, is that enough? Local high school sports are shown on local television because there's local interest. If there's national interest in basketball factories like Sierra Canyon and Detroit Country Day and Oak Hill Academy, shouldn't they be shown nationally?
But both sides of the argument kind of miss one thing - this is not high school athletics as any normal person would know them. High schools play other high schools in their immediate area. No normal high school team in California has a road game in Massachusetts. If anything, there is less of an air of amateurism surrounding the type of high school experience you get at a basketball powerhouse like Sierra Canyon than most mid-major colleges. Traditional high school sports don't exist for athletes identified as possible pros early enough in their lives.