Read Chris Cusack's follow-up to this letter at The Blue Zone, The Chronicle sports blog.
Seriously. Declare for the NBA draft, hire an agent, pick out a nice suit and start practicing to look surprised when your name is one of the first to be called by Commissioner David Stern in June.
I mean, what’s there to lose?
Sure, some of the Cameron Crazies will implore you to consider your legacy as a Blue Devil, to remember the history of the great Duke players before you who went on to successful NBA careers. They’ll probably name drop the likes of Carlos Boozer, Grant Hill and Shane Battier, all guys who won NCAA titles before noteworthy careers in the pros (in spite of playing three seasons or more under one of basketball’s greatest coaches). Don’t follow in the footsteps of William Avery, you’ll be warned; he made the wise decision to leave Duke after his sophomore year, and use the NBA as a stepping stone to an illustrious career in Europe. Don’t let those comparisons get you down, though, even if Avery did get the privilege of watching from the sidelines as his former college teammates celebrated a national championship.
Plus, sticking around and winning a fifth national title for the Blue Devils is just selfish, even if you haven’t ever won one yourself. Think about it: Cameron is already full of national championship banners, and adding one of your own would ruin the symmetry in the rafters. Sure, you’ll give up your chance to be remembered as one of Duke’s all-time greatest basketball players, but I bet if you asked Christian Laettner, he would tell you that fans don’t remember collegiate legacies anyway. Well, at least until he tries to visit Kentucky, where his likeness is still routinely burned in effigy on the anniversary of “The Shot.”
And if you’re still not convinced, remember that if you go pro, you might not even have to play next year! Who really wants to play, anyway? Sure, you won’t get paid any of that major contract that you’d sign as a top draft pick, but at least you won’t have to endure the grind of professional sports. Some of those same haters from before will probably call it a wasted season, as Europe will probably be the only place to play in the interim, but that won’t affect your NBA salary. As long as the rookie salary structure stays the same, that is.
Plus, just think of the NBA franchises you could possibly play for! While the NBA Draft lottery hasn’t happened yet, the Cleveland Cavaliers are the frontrunners after enduring an NBA-record 26-game losing streak this season. With the Cavs, your most talented teammate would be center Anderson Varejao, the real-life equivalent of Sideshow Bob, whose curly locks will be a comedic distraction from his lack of on-court ability. Trust me, you’ll need to actively search for reasons to smile playing on the perimeter with an overweight Baron Davis, who was shipped out of Los Angeles because he was so out of shape that his owner started heckling him.
Or you could end up in Toronto, affectionately dubbed years ago The City Where Basketball was Single-Handedly Killed by Vince Carter. In fact, the Raptors’ website is already looking forward to your debut season, advertising the “lowest season seat prices ever” in 2011-12. Playing for the Sacramento Kings is another option, though I hear the franchise is still preoccupied with getting their Tim Donaghy-scandalized 2003 Western Conference title back from the Lakers.
That’s all there is to consider. Rest assured, you’ll never regret leaving Duke after just one year, never wonder what might have been if you stuck around to play with the nation’s No. 2-ranked recruiting class, which by the way includes your longtime friend and teammate Austin Rivers. It’s really a no-brainer.
I look forward to your announcement, even if you ignore my advice and stay in school, er, I mean, go pro.