|The adidas jokes were flying after Shabazz Muhammad's decision. (Getty Images)|
Shabazz Muhammad committed to UCLA on Wednesday.
Then came the Adidas comments.
"Shabazz Muhammad to UCLA. Three stripes and Kentucky's out!" -- ESPN's Fran Fraschilla
"Adidas, um I mean UCLA, wins the Shabazz Muhammad Sweepstakes. Shabazz stayed loyal to adidas entire way." -- CBSSports.com's Jeff Goodman
"Shabazz is dumb and adidas is evil." -- Everybody else
Yes, I paraphrased the last quote and attributed it to millions. But you get the point. Seems college basketball observers from coast to coast -- and especially on the East Coast -- were suddenly very interested in the idea that a shoe company might've played a role in swaying an elite prospect toward a school, which was, well, interesting considering it happens all the time.
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The only thing that makes this situation any different from many situations is that it features a so-called Adidas school benefiting from a so-called Adidas kid as opposed to a so-called Nike school benefitting from a so-called Nike kid ... and that John Calipari was on the wrong end of a decision. Besides that, this was par for the college-basketball course -- just business as usual in the high-stakes game of high-level recruiting.
Which is not to suggest Fran and Jeff (and everybody else) were wrong.
They were absolutely right.
Because though UCLA is UCLA, Pauley Pavilion is renovated and Ben Howland's track record for putting prospects in the NBA and making them stick is well-documented, it would be naive for anybody to suggest the financial relationship Adidas has with people around Muhammad didn't factor into his decision to attend a Pac-12 school coming off a disappointing season highlighted by controversy. I mean, Adidas has sponsored Muhammad's summer team (Dream Vision) for years, and his tennis-playing sister (Asia Muhammad) has an Adidas contract even though she's ranked outside the top 375 in the world. This stuff has to matter on some level, you know?
But it matters when Nike benefits, too.
It cuts both ways.
It's just that it matters and happens more often with Nike than it does with Adidas, so it's sorta surprising when the three stripes trump the swoosh ... and when Calipari misses on an elite recruit late considering he has in recent years landed Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Brandon Knight in the late period. Nobody does Spring better than Calipari does Spring. Bet on him every time. You'll win more than you lose.
But you would've lost on Muhammad.
And, I agree, Calipari lost Muhammad in part because of Adidas.
Again, Fran and Jeff are right.
But Calipari also got Anthony Davis in part because of Nike because, trust me when I tell you, it was just as well known in basketball circles that Davis was almost certainly headed to a so-called Nike school as it was that Muhammad was almost certainly headed to a so-called Adidas school. Remember, Davis' final list of possible destinations was Kentucky, Ohio State and Syracuse, and the most obvious thing those three have in common is that they are three of Nike's most important college basketball programs.
Bottom line, this is the world we live in.
I don't like it.
I'd love to change it.
But I don't know how and the NCAA doesn't, either.
So prospects will continue to travel the country each summer on the dime of shoe companies -- not to mention agents, runners, financial advisors, boosters and all sorts of other entities and people -- and relationships will continue to be developed. Money will play a role because money almost always plays a role in everything. And then these same prospects will hold press conferences, and, in some cases, we'll put them on live television and ask them why they decided what they decided.
Sometimes they'll talk about tradition.
Sometimes they'll talk about facilities.
Sometimes they'll talk about a coach and a style of play.
And sometimes that stuff will actually matter to some degree.
But outside influences like Nike and Adidas will also usually matter to some degree, and Shabazz Muhammad's recruitment should serve as more of a reminder than a revelation. Because, trust me when I tell you, there was another kid just like him last year and the year before that and the year before that. And they'll be another one just like him next year, too.