NBA legend Paul Pierce hopes to see far more young Americans skipping college in order to play basketball in Australia and New Zealand, saying talented players have every right to earn money straight out of high school.
Top 10 NBA draft prospects for 2020, LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton, have both opted against college and will feature in Australia's NBL this season as part of the league's Next Stars program. It's a new, fast tracked pathway to the NBA which offers young international talent an opportunity to develop their skills in a professional environment before nominating for the draft.
What's more is that these Next Stars are able to earn a salary and sign endorsement deals while playing, something which college players are currently unable to do.
Pierce says the basketball landscape has changed dramatically since he was first drafted to the Boston Celtics in 1998 and young Americans should take advantage of the opportunities now available to them.
"Before, as an American-born player, the only way you could make it to the NBA was through college," Pierce told ESPN. "But now you have these other links and guys no longer need to go to college in order to make it to the NBA.
"You have guys flying off to China, you have guys flying off to Europe and now you have guys coming to Australia for an opportunity. The players are putting their own futures in their own hands. It's awesome.
"You've seen across the board, whether it's in sports or corporate America, if you're good enough to be at the top and start earning money out of high school, no matter what profession it is, you should have that opportunity. If I'm good enough to be a CEO of a company out of high school, I should have that opportunity. If I'm good enough to be a professional basketball player out of high school, I should have that opportunity."
The state of California recently passed bill SB206, or the Fair Pay to Play Act, which takes effect in January, 2023. The law gives college athletes the right to sell their name and image to outside bidders, meaning players could soon get paid for things like television commercials and video game appearances.
But Pierce says it's still not enough given the exuberant amount of money some college institutions make off the back of their athletes.
"When so many colleges and universities make so much money off the likeness of players and the jersey sales of players, it just makes you wonder why can't you be compensated for that," Pierce told ESPN. "For instance, look at Zion Williamson. How much money do you think Duke made off him in just one year? When you have a once in a lifetime player that comes to your organization they deserve compensation. I truly believe that."
Pierce, a 2008 NBA champion and 10-time All Star, is currently in Australia to promote the NBA's upcoming season.