The NBA draft prospects step into the style spotlight Lonzo Ball, De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and other ballers make a play for best in class

I’m milling about the lobby of the Grand Hyatt New York, where many members of the 2017 NBA draft class are counting down the hours until D-day at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Tall brown men are everywhere, many of whom are a little more than 24 hours away from being very famous and very rich.

I’m here to find out what the kids will be wearing on draft night. It becomes quickly apparent that ain’t happening. No one will spill the beans on details about suits, shoes, jewelry; they know that the big reveal gets the more screen time. Having that Hollywood mind frame starts early, yo. What we see pre-draft — formal-ish suits in low-key colors, flashy designer sneakers and jewelry — is an appetizer portion of what’ll be dished up later. The fashion menu is safe and tasty — but Thursday’s will be fire.

First up: Lonzo Ball. The 6-foot-6 UCLA point guard has had a rapid ascension in the pop culture hierarchy over the past several months, partially due to his serious skills as a ball player, but mainly because of his outspoken father and manager, LaVar Ball. The Ball family launched a sneaker and apparel line, Big Baller Brand, to much fanfare earlier this year. Not surprisingly, Lonzo Ball came dressed in gray pants and a black polo shirt stamped with the “BBB” logo on the left breast; a diamond crucifix hung from a diamond chain around his neck.

“I don’t feel pressure” to rep the Big Baller Brand, Lonzo Ball said when asked what he planned to wear to draft night. “I’ll wear a black suit.” We’ll see. The marketing machine that is LaVar Ball has enough chutzpah to drop a ready-to-wear men’s suit line in time for Lonzo Ball’s handshake with NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

On to De’Aaron Fox, the charming point guard for the University of Kentucky. Fox has been making the media rounds leading up to the draft, and the Houston-bred player was not playing around, sartorially speaking. His gray two-toned suit and black collarless shirt was tailored (by his personal stylist, no less) to perfection. The famous crown of hair was peaked high and looked magnificent. Fox joked that his Gucci slip-on sneakers, which were color stamped with a picture of a snarling tiger, were coveted by his fashion-obsessed Kentucky teammate, Malik Monk. “We wear the same shoe size, and he almost took these!” Fox said. “He had a different pair of Gucci shoes, so we’re good.

“I just like to look good — I feel like I can look good in anything, but my [draft day] suit is gonna look great,” said Fox, who took off the right GG Supreme Angry Cat sneaker and offered it for inspection. “The only question is how I’m gonna fit the hat over my head.”

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At a nearby table, Monk wore a blue-and-white bomber jacket with leather trim instead of a typical suit jacket. “I always have something different on, whether you see it or not. You’ve gotta be different in the NBA, gotta stand out,” Monk said as he lifted his own colorful Gucci Ace GG Wallpaper sneaker-clad foot onto the table.

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I’d been waiting to talk to Markelle Fultz, this year’s projected No. 1 overall pick and famous son of Prince George’s County, Maryland. Being a P.G. County girl my own self, I was pleasantly surprised when Fultz ended up earning the award for Most Low-Key Fashion Rookie of the day. Dressed in a black button-down shirt and black jeans, the University of Washington point guard let out a loud cry as he approached the interview table, packed seven deep with reporters. “Dang!” Fultz said before taking his seat.

What do you like most about what you’re going to wear Thursday, I asked.

“The lining of my draft suit is gray, but there’ll be some special stuff about it, too. I hope people will be surprised and like it,” Fultz said. “I always try to rep for a little bit of everywhere I’ve been, P.G. County, DeMatha [High School], [University of] Washington.”

All Day Podcast: 6/14/17 ‘Bachelor in Paradise’ gets canceled, and a sci-fi series looks to get off the ground

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What’s up, gang? This week found us moving away from the sports world in quite a few ways. With the summer coming up, we’ll be doing a lot more exploring of the rest of the globe since the sports calendar slows down tremendously until NFL training camps start back.

First, I sat down with ESPN anchor, attorney and friend of the show Adrienne Lawrence about the legal ramifications surrounding the production shutdown of Bachelor In Paradise this week. There have been lawsuits and speculation about sexual misconduct, which overall is a very difficult topic to discuss, considering the overall premise of that program. People get sent to an island to potentially hook up and are plied with booze while they do it. It’s stunning that we haven’t had more incidents like this on that show, to be honest.

Then, I got on the phone with Riley S. Wilson and Lisa Cortes, executive producers of the Little Apple series, which is described as “a live-action sci/fi drama following a 9-year-old claircognizant (all-knowing) little black girl growing up in a new Harlem.” Yes, it’s quite the show in the making, and the two talked about how using that character came to be important to them in a larger discussion about what’s happening in many urban landscapes across America.

Lastly, I dropped a quick take about Lonzo Ball’s newest commercial in which he absolutely roasts his own dad, LaVar. It’s genuinely one of the funniest things I’ve seen in sports in a really long time, and I hope it’s an indicator of exactly what we’re going to get from the UCLA point guard once he gets drafted next week, wherever he may go. Unfortunately, we had to cut it because the audio wasn’t cleared for use, but it’s worth seeing.

Enjoy the show!

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Who should replace Jerry West on a new NBA logo? The choice is yours

The Cleveland Summit and Muhammad Ali: The true story Historic meeting organized by Jim Brown had an economic incentive

It was a sunny Sunday afternoon, June 4, 1967. Some of the greatest black athletes in the country gathered in a nondescript office building in Cleveland.

According to legend — and countless media reports in subsequent years that failed to challenge that legend — the athletes had come together to decide whether to lend their support to Muhammad Ali, who had been stripped of his heavyweight title and faced charges of draft dodging for his refusal to serve in the Vietnam War.

Ali needed support, that much is true. Ever since he’d changed his name from Cassius Clay, joined the Nation of Islam (NOI) and refused to join the military, he’d become one of the most reviled men in the nation, hated almost as much by black Americans as by white ones. So the fact that other black athletes would convene in support of Ali held significance. The men meeting in Cleveland that day — including Jim Brown, Bill Russell and Lew Alcindor — were widely admired.

But as we mark the 50th anniversary of the Cleveland Summit, the time has come to scrape off the barnacles that adhere to this story. There were multiple interests at play in that room and differing conceptions of the best way to advance the position of blacks in America. Some of the men were ex-military. Others had economic stakes in the outcome.

Before the meeting in Cleveland, boxing promoter Bob Arum and others, including prominent members of the Nation of Islam, tried to persuade Ali to accept a deal that one of Arum’s law partners had negotiated with the government. If Ali would agree to perform boxing exhibitions for U.S. troops, the draft-dodging charges would be dropped.

At the time, Arum was running a company called Main Bout, which controlled the closed-circuit television rights for Ali’s fights. Main Bout needed Ali to attract closed-circuit viewers. Among Arum’s partners in Main Bout were Jim Brown and two leading figures in the Nation of Islam: Herbert Muhammad, son of the NOI’s leader, Elijah Muhammad; and John Ali, the NOI’s national secretary. John Ali told me that he and Herbert Muhammad profited personally from the agreement with Main Bout. It wasn’t a deal with the Nation.

That meant Arum, Brown, Herbert Muhammad and John Ali all had an incentive to get Ali in the ring as soon as possible. A lot of money was on the line.

In addition, Arum told Brown that if he and other black athletes could persuade Ali to resume boxing, the athletes would be rewarded with local closed-circuit franchises. In essence, a portion of the proceeds from Ali’s fights would go to these athletes.

Brown, who organized the meeting, had retired as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher a couple of years earlier and was working as an actor while also pursuing his interest in black economic empowerment. He invited not only Russell and Alcindor, who was playing for UCLA at the time (and later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), but also Sid Williams and Walter Beach of the Cleveland Browns, Curtis McClinton of the Kansas City Chiefs, Bobby Mitchell and Jim Shorter of the Washington Redskins and Willie Davis of the Green Bay Packers. Also present was Carl Stokes, a prominent attorney in Cleveland who would be elected the first black mayor of a major American city that November.

The meeting, held in the offices of Brown’s Negro Industrial and Economic Union, had only one purpose, according to Arum: “To convince Ali to take the deal because it opened up tremendous opportunities for black athletes.” He continued, “I wasn’t setting it up for the athletes to rally around Ali.”

Several of the men in Cleveland were military veterans. Some believed Elijah Muhammad’s separatist ideology was racist and, if followed through, would lead to an American apartheid. They arrived intent on challenging Ali.

“My first reaction was that it was unpatriotic,” Davis of the Green Bay Packers said, referring to Ali’s anti-war stance. Davis was one of three men in the room who confirmed Arum’s version of the story.

Ali worked the room like it was his birthday party, cracking jokes and talking to everyone at once. When men aimed hard questions at him, the boxer never got defensive. He spoke passionately and confidently.

McClinton, a halfback for the Chiefs, was a member of the Army’s active reserves at the time. He told Ali that while he respected the boxer’s religion, it was important to remember his nationality, too. McClinton said he told Ali, “Hey, man, all you’d do is get a uniform and you’d be boxing at all the bases around the country. … Your presence on military bases gives that motivation to military men.”

The meeting went on for hours, but Ali never budged. When it was over, Brown led the group to a news conference.

“There’s nothing new to say,” Ali announced, perhaps recognizing that reporters expected him to make big news by backing down from his anti-war stance. Other participants said they were convinced Ali was sincere in his religious conviction.

Two weeks later, an all-white jury needed only 20 minutes to find Ali guilty of draft evasion. His exile from boxing would continue for three more years. The Supreme Court eventually reversed his conviction in 1971.

Given that the Cleveland Summit had little impact on Ali’s decision about the draft, why has it become folklore? The answer is that the story makes us feel good. It shows athletes in solidarity, standing up to power.

But, in this case, the full story works just as well, if not better, than the myth.

Several of the men gathered in Cleveland came seeking economic opportunity. When they recognized that they were not going to change Ali’s mind and they were not going to see any money from a deal with Arum, they could have walked away. Instead, they used their collective power to support Ali. They sacrificed some of their own popularity to stand up for religious freedom and to stand up to a government that seemed to be singling Ali out for punishment because he was black and outspoken.

In an article written for Sports Illustrated after the meeting, Russell said he envied Ali. “He has something I have never been able to attain and something very few people I know possess,” Russell wrote. “He has an absolute and sincere faith. … I’m not worried about Muhammad Ali. He is better equipped than anyone I know to withstand the trials in store for him. What I’m worried about is the rest of us.”

That day, Russell and the rest of the men did just fine.

Is Nico Marley, Bob Marley’s grandson, NFL-ready? A star linebacker at Tulane, the young Marley wants to show that he’s got game and not just a famous last name

Rohan Marley goes a little bit LaVar Ball when he talks about his son Nico. So much so that the spotlight-grabbing father of former UCLA basketball star Lonzo Ball might even approve.

Nico, the grandson of reggae legend Bob Marley, just might be as good as advertised — only you’ve likely never heard of him. That’s where his father comes in. The doting dad is determined to let the masses know, even at the risk of sounding like another over-the-top helicopter sports dad.

But just as the Ball brothers’ game speaks for them, Nico’s story stands on its own merits. He ended up at Tulane University without fanfare. Tulane was the only Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) school to offer him a scholarship coming out of Cypress Bay High School in Weston, Florida. And only two Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) programs, Duquesne and Barry universities, showed interest.

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An undersized linebacker — he came to Tulane in 2013 weighing just over 180 pounds on a 5-foot-8 frame — Nico has grown accustomed to being the underdog, even with that famous last name and a dad who isn’t afraid to spit.

“Coming out of high school, I heard people say, ‘He’s just a high school player — he’s not built for [college],’ so it would be weird if I wasn’t the underdog,” said Nico, who was born in Haiti and lived in Jamaica for two years before moving to Miami when he was 4. “It would be weird if I was a top prospect, because [being an underdog] is all I know. When I got to Tulane, I was just a guy who got an extra scholarship. People figured I’d just be a special teams guy. I don’t think they thought I’d end up being who I became. I’m so grateful to Tulane for giving me my only Division I opportunity, but I knew they had some doubts about me.”

Curtis Johnson, Tulane’s coach at the time, saw Marley’s height. He also saw his potential.

“If you have a smart guy who can run, who leaves it all out on the field and plays as reckless as he does and is an exceptional leader, you have to take as many guys as you can like that,” said Johnson, who compiled a 15-34 record in his four seasons at Tulane, including three with Marley.

“Besides his size, which is a big factor for everyone, this guy could have played anywhere in the country with his speed and athleticism,” Johnson continued. “He’s a tackling machine, a sideline-to-sideline player who tackles with more impact than most guys much bigger than him. I mean, he was everything you wanted in a linebacker.”

Marley excelled in Tulane’s environment, starting every game of his collegiate career, amassing 319 total tackles (204 solo) and etching his name in the Green Wave record books, becoming the school’s all-time leader in tackles for loss with 50.5.

Tulane Green Wave linebacker Nico Marley tackles Navy Midshipmen fullback Shawn White behind the line during the second quarter at Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

As a junior, he earned first-team All-AAC honors despite Tulane’s 3-9 record, something else that may have kept him under the national radar.

“He missed one play his entire career at Tulane – not a series, a play – and it was Senior Day, when the coaches let the seniors play,” said Rohan Marley, who played alongside Warren Sapp, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Ray Lewis at Miami, himself leading that team in tackles with 95 in 1993.

Despite the numbers, Nico, 22, still carries the underdog tag. No NFL combine invitation came after he graduated last May with a business marketing degree. But his dream of playing at the next level burns.

“I didn’t get a combine invite — and, again, it would have been weird for me to get one because of everything I’ve been through,” he explains. “I don’t expect people to put me at the top of their list. I thought I earned one, but it’s whatever,” said Marley, who headlined a list of Tulane prospects who worked out for NFL scouts this month.

Nico Marley (2) celebrates after picking up a fumble

Tulane University

Of his NFL chances, Johnson, the one coach who gave him his collegiate shot, believes Marley is built for Sundays.

“I think we made a big mistake not playing him on special teams more,” the coach said reflectively. “He would’ve been a special teams demon. In the NFL, that’s 25 plays a game. As soon as someone sees him run down on a kickoff, size don’t matter there. If he shows his athleticism, somebody will give him a look.”

Let Rohan tell it: All his boy needs is a chance. “[Nico] can play nickel,” he said matter-of-factly. “He’s a package player. He’s a Bob Sanders type,” Rohan said, referring to the retired longtime Colts safety. “Get him on the field and he’ll make plays. He’s a playmaker.”

Nico hears his dad and smiles. He’s been hearing him his whole life and credits him with molding him into the player he’s become.

“He played football, but he never pushed [the sport] on me,” Nico said of his father, an entrepreneur and founder of Marley Coffee, an organic coffee plantation and farming business in Jamaica’s Blue Mountains. “He taught me the game — what to look at, who to watch, every little detail — from how to prepare for games to getting my body right and my mind focused. He made me understand that the game is 90 percent mental. Pregame rituals, getting your breathing right, focusing just on your task.

“He would watch games and film on me, and he would know every move I made, good and bad. I wouldn’t even have to tell him.”

Nico and Rohan Marley

Courtesy of Nico Marley

Rohan’s catch-a-fire mentality was passed down by his own world-famous father, who, he says with a genuine laugh, was a fitness freak and competitive beyond measure.

“My old man was the kind of man … when he’d come and pick you up, he’s not coming to pick you up to hang out with you. He’s coming to work you,” Rohan Marley said. “You’re either going running or to play [soccer] … everything to do with fitness. You have to do the situp bench, the ab wheel. You have to be fit.

“My dad, one time late at night I was sitting in the yard … it was, maybe, midnight. He drove in, pulling up in one of them big buses. I sat there, and he looked at me — I’m thinking I’m in trouble. He goes upstairs and comes back downstairs with boxing gloves, and we started boxing at midnight,” Rohan said with a laugh. “That’s my dad.”

Like father, like son.

Pots & Pans: 70 years after Jackie Robinson’s breakthrough, stats are changing sports but not what makes a hero No. 42 put up great numbers, but they don’t capture his importance

Through the years, observers have called the baseball gloves worn by outfielders Tris Speaker and Willie Mays places where (would-be) triples went to die. For me, those comments illustrate the Hall of Famers’ fielding prowess better than their respective defensive runs saved (DRS) scores ever could. Thus, I’m unlikely to ever lead a baseball conversation rooted in the understanding of advanced defensive stats or any other advanced sports statistics.

But by the Major League Baseball All-Star break, I plan to know enough about advanced baseball statistics to nod at their disciples in an opaque way that masks my lack of knowledge, just as I do when the younger brothers in the barbershops start talking about today’s rap versus the vintage flow from Tupac and Biggie. After all, I believe having even a nodding acquaintance with new languages, interpretations and perspectives can promote understanding among disparate groups.

Besides, advanced and sophisticated statistical analysis looms large in sports. And it’s not just in conversations in barbershops, at workplace water coolers or on sports talk shows, especially those comparing players from different eras. Increasingly, advanced statistical analysis determines how today’s games are played.

In baseball, such analysis has reduced the importance of stolen bases, pitching complete games and making sacrifice bunts. Further, managers such as Dusty Baker, 67, are sometimes criticized for being out of touch with today’s baseball. With a half-century in baseball, Baker, a three-time Major League Baseball Manager of the Year, is more likely to refer to his gut than a spreadsheet when deciding what he and his Washington Nationals ballclub should do. He’s never managed a team to a World Series victory. Further, in a managing career that has lasted more than two decades, Baker has taken the Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, the San Francisco Giants and the Nationals to the playoffs without winning a World Series.

But Theo Epstein, the 43-year-old Yale grad-turned-Major League Baseball front-office rainmaker, has used analytics to put together teams that ended World Series victory droughts of over 80 years each for the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs. Who can argue with Epstein’s approach?

Furthermore, in the NFL, the new numbers game has led to the devaluing of running backs. Their careers in the NFL often go like this: Runners are devalued in a “passing league,” so they are picked in later rounds of the NFL draft and given less money to sign initial contracts. Nevertheless, the best runners run a lot, and just when they’d be rewarded with a big second contract for running a lot and producing a lot, a number cruncher says, “Not so fast.” The player has been running a lot; he’s approaching 30 and about to lose productivity and become more injury-prone. Consequently, the number cruncher recommends that the player — let’s call him John Henry — not be re-signed, or get cut or traded for draft picks.

In big-time college basketball and NBA basketball, the new numbers game has given rise to the 3-point shot. Despite the University of South Carolina women’s team winning the 2017 Division I Championship game while going 0-for-3 on 3-pointers, everyone from the University of Connecticut women’s teams to NBA stalwarts such as the Golden State Warriors have used the 3-point shot to contend for championships or to win them.

Indeed, guard Lonzo Ball, the UCLA freshman who has declared for the NBA draft, presents himself as the ultimate modern baller: He takes 3-point shots or he drives to the basket. He employs his midrange jumper about as often as his dad, LaVar Ball, reveals his humility.

Consequently, young Mr. Ball is already an avatar of contemporary style and practice on the basketball court. I can envision years from now the images of Ball and his younger basketball-playing brothers, dressed as a trio of Sportin’ Lifes from Porgy and Bess, adorning the cover of a video game called It Ain’t Necessarily So. The game will remind players that the well-lived life in sports can’t be captured or appreciated solely through game statistics.

Game players will earn points for the things their video avatars do, including playing with great panache, donating their money to worthy causes, and giving younger athletes sage private counsel rather than showering the younger players with public ridicule. Also, some game players will earn points when their video avatars stay out of trouble and save their money, making it possible for their children and their children’s children to enjoy great wealth and security.

Oh, sure, such a video game promoted by the Ball brothers or anyone else is not likely to happen. But the real winners in sports, such as Muhammad Ali, Roberto Clemente and LeBron James, have shown they understand Jackie Robinson’s telling words: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

During his Brooklyn Dodgers career, Robinson compiled a .311 lifetime batting average. He won Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player honors. But his statistics and sports honors don’t begin to capture his enduring significance: Robinson’s breaking Major League Baseball’s color line in 1947 resounds in our country every time another noble warrior redefines what’s possible for future generations.

This week, as we mark the 70th anniversary of Robinson’s majestic triumph, let’s resolve to move our appreciation of Robinson beyond speeches and applause. Let’s honor Robinson, as the Hall of Famer honored his gifts and talents, as he honored the heroes who went before him: Let’s seek to improve the lives of others.

That’s what winners do.

Daily Dose: 4/7/17

Clinton Yates is not here today. He’s currently at the Coca-Cola headquarters, pitching executives on a new ad campaign starring Iggy Azalea.

The Trump administration launched a cruise missile strike against the Syrian government Thursday night. According to ABC News, “59 tomahawk missiles were launched from destroyers USS Porter and USS Ross in the Mediterranean Sea over a half-hour span beginning at 7:36 p.m. ET.” The U.S. military forewarned its Russian counterparts in the area that the airstrike was coming, and reportedly no Syrians were killed. National security adviser H.R. McMaster said the attack would not “stop [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad’s ability to carry out future attacks,” according to CNN, so not much can be made of what happened last night.

LaVar Ball is talking … again. The noted loudmouth has been saying insane things for months now, but now he just said something plain stupid. Ball told the Southern California News Group that UCLA, his son Lonzo’s former team, was eliminated from the NCAA tournament last month because “you can’t win no championship with three white guys because the foot speed is too slow.” Aside from that not being true, UCLA lost in part because Lonzo Ball scored just 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting in the team’s Sweet 16 loss to Kentucky, while Wildcats guard De’Aaron Fox dropped 39 points in his face. And for nonblack people, this doesn’t make LaVar Ball racist, so leave those think pieces in your Drafts folder.

There’s a new All Eyez on Me trailer. The Tupac Shakur biopic looks amazing. From the cast — The Wire‘s Jamie Hector, The Walking Dead‘s Danai Gurira and Notorious‘ Jamal Woolard, reprising his role as Notorious B.I.G. — to the music to the drama, this movie appears to have it all. Lead actor Demetrius Shipp Jr., who plays the late rapper, makes you think you’re watching a documentary (or a Coachella hologram) rather than a feature film because of his striking resemblance to the titular character. And it appears we’re getting a 360-degree view of Shakur, from his upbringing in New York alongside his Black Panther mother and stepfather to his “California Love” lifestyle as a rap superstar all the way to his premature death at the age of 25. There’s even time to fit in former girlfriend Jada Pinkett Smith. The movie opens on June 17.


Quick notes:

1. An Arizona elementary school was out here stamping kids’ arms for not having enough lunch money.

2. Aaron Rodgers and Olivia Munn are officially calling it quits.

3. Kendrick Lamar was reportedly supposed to drop an album last night. He did not.

Big-time college athletes should be paid with big-time educations Before we discuss paying college athletes, let’s make sure they get a real college education

Education should be the college athlete’s greatest compensation.

Not a slice of the billions of dollars paid for TV rights for their games. Not a pay-for-play contract like their NBA and NFL brethren. The biggest crime in college sports isn’t that the system is rigged against paying college athletes, it’s that money-worshipping American culture is set up against educating them.

The clamor to pay players arose anew this week when North Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams earned $925,000 in bonuses after his team won the national championship. “The players got awesome T-shirts and hats,” observed Associated Press sports writer Tim Reynolds in a viral tweet.

The NCAA collects $1.1 billion per year from CBS and Turner for broadcast rights to the basketball tournament. ESPN pays $470 million annually for the College Football Playoff. Conferences and individual colleges make additional millions during the regular season. Many have compellingly argued for years that, morally and legally, the players deserve to pocket some of that windfall.

They do. But our Money Over Everything society is minimizing or ignoring what’s currently within its grasp, which should last far longer than a six-figure revenue-sharing check.

Right now, college players receive up to six figures’ worth of higher education, plus the life-changing opportunity to elevate intellect and character. Yes, athletes are too often pushed into fake classes to keep them eligible, as in the infamous North Carolina academic scandal that threatens the Tar Heels’ championship, or hindered from serious study by the 40-hour-per-week demands of their sport. But these athletes, and generations of their descendants, would benefit more from reforming their educational experiences than from extra cash.

Let’s look at what those North Carolina ballers receive from their athletic scholarships.

Start with four years of tuition, fees, room and board that total $80,208 for in-state students and $180,536 for those from outside North Carolina. Add the benefit of a diploma from a top institution with an influential and passionate alumni network. UNC is nationally ranked the No. 5 public university and the No. 30 college overall. The name “North Carolina” on LinkedIn or a resume opens doors and gets phone calls returned — and that’s without including “2017 NCAA champion.” And for the majority of UNC players who won’t make NBA millions, lifetime earnings for college graduates are 66 percent higher than those with just a high school diploma. That can be worth more than an additional $1 million.

Then there are the intangibles.

“People ask all the time why I’m one of the youngest college presidents in the country, and one of the only African-Americans leading a private national university,” said Chris Howard, 48, who leads Robert Morris University in suburban Pittsburgh and played football at the Air Force Academy. “I credit a big chunk of that to my experience playing college athletics. I know it sounds kind of cliché, but attention to detail, discipline, teamwork, resiliency, learning how to deal with others, deal with people that are of different backgrounds. It was just a melting pot. It was a leadership lab for me.”

After finishing college, Howard flew helicopters, served in Afghanistan and Liberia, became a Rhodes scholar and got a Harvard MBA. “All those intangibles kind of laid the path. The path was laid by playing D-I football first,” he said.

Rather than an unfair burden, Howard sees the demands placed on college athletes as a down payment on a successful future.

“You’ll be a better human being when you learn to handle that load,” he said. “You’ll be a better father, better husband, better brother, better sister. You’ll be a better professional as an engineer, a lawyer, a doctor, a business manager.”

The pay-for-play crowd loves to holler, “Intangibles don’t pay the bills.”

College athletes certainly should receive enough compensation to cover living expenses. Their families should travel free to games. Some sort of trust fund sounds fair. But the intangible value of higher education is worth more than pizza or gas money.

Martin Luther King Jr. described it while a student at Morehouse College:

“Most of the ‘brethren’ think that education should equip them with the proper instruments of exploitation so that they can forever trample over the masses,” King wrote in 1947 at age 21. “Still others think that education should furnish them with noble ends rather than means to an end.”

“Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education,” King wrote.

The real problem is, too many athletes are blocked from coming within a Hail Mary of that ideal.

“I would suggest that a lot of these kids aren’t getting an education. They’re just sitting in class,” said Leonard Moore, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin who is founder of the Black Student-Athlete Summit.

Moore has tutored, counseled and mentored athletes while teaching at Ohio State, Louisiana State and now Texas. He says most big-time athletes are limited to easy majors and prevented from taking advantage of many educational benefits because “revenue-generating sports are now year-round enterprises.”

“You can’t take a class after 1 o’clock. You can’t study abroad in the summer. You can’t get an internship on Wall Street or Silicon Valley,” he said. “The question then becomes how do these student-athletes take advantage of everything that a place like Texas or UCLA has to offer? I would argue that it monopolizes all their time. The only thing they can do is go to class, go to work out and then go lift, and then go to the meeting and then go to class.”

“I never understood why a football team has to practice in February when their first game of the season is in September,” Moore said.

Money is the biggest reason.

The University of Texas football team generated $121 million in revenue and a staggering $92 million profit in 2015. The business of college sports is so entrenched, Moore doesn’t believe it’s possible to make the players real students again.

“Just because you value education doesn’t mean [the athlete] values it,” he said. “If it’s basketball that got me on an airplane, that’s taken me to another state, that’s taken me out of the country, you know what I’m saying? Basketball has definitely helped me move forward in life. You say a four-year education, that doesn’t mean anything. That’s important in your value system, but it ain’t important in mine.

“Right now, it seems like they value the money and that we all value the money,” Moore continued. “That’s the athletes. That’s the university. Our society values the money, and so we say, ‘Look, they need to be paid. We need to pay them, pay them, pay them.’ Instead of saying, ‘We need to educate, educate, educate.’ ”

Efforts are being made. Over the past 15 years, graduation rates have risen from 46 to 77 percent for all black NCAA basketball players, and from 76 to 94 percent for white players. The NCAA gave Division I schools $45 million last year for academic programs and services.

But ballplayers can still get a sociology degree in three years while reading just one book. The clamor for cash still prevails. Demanding short-term gratification feels better than pursuing long-term goals.

A starting point for reform would be guaranteeing athletic scholarships for four years, instead of one, and providing free tuition, room and board for as long as it takes ex-players to graduate. Freed from the demand to produce revenue, these young athletes could finally obtain the incalculable benefits of a real college education.

Capitalism dictates that college players be paid fairly for the entertainment they provide. If money is life’s ultimate goal, the buck stops there.

Or here: “Capitalism is always in danger,” King said, “of inspiring men to be more concerned about making a living than making a life.”