I spent the last three weeks watching the best high school basketball players in the country compete in tournaments in SoCal and Las Vegas. I also heard a lot of negative things about the growing influence of AAU basketball. The scuttlebutt is that AAU basketball has replaced high school basketball in terms of its relevance to young players. The criticism is that AAU coaches and program administrators are all about the money and that quality coaching is absent from the process. There is an interesting documentary on Netflix called At All Costs that really gets to the essence of AAU basketball. I got to see AAU first hand as my son, Aaron, played for one of the leading programs in SoCal, Earl Watson Elite. Like most things, there is good and bad associated with AAU basketball. AAU really emerged when state budgets started cutting sports programs. My son’s high school has one full time paid coach for the entire basketball program, which includes three teams (Varsity, JV, and Frosh). AAU solved a problem, both for kids and for college coaches who are looking for cost effective ways to find talent for their programs. Earl Watson Elite is a quality program from top to bottom, but not every program is the same. Shoe companies provide resources to the top programs but also wield excessive influence, in my opinion. High school aged kids should not be beholden to Nike, UA, or Adidas. But all told, the experience for both me and Aaron was positive. I enjoyed watching kids from all parts of the country compete and form friendships. There are plenty of good coaches in AAU and Aaron definitely became a better player in the process.
The NFL markets its brand as well as any enterprise in the world. I heard a comedian once say that the NFL is so popular, it has its own day. NFL football is huge. Each NFL franchise brings in approximately $400M a year in revenue; almost double the annual revenue of NBA teams and 2 ½ times as much as MLB clubs.