One of the topics various NBA players have been very vocal about is the structural organization of AAU basketball and the lack of it. There is a notion young basketball players are missing on the fundamental skills in this sport, which are essential to be a great player, and AAU is one of the main reasons behind that. Players like the late Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have openly spoken about the cons of AAU basketball and how it affects young players.
Just recently, Gilbert Arenas, who is always very vocal and is not afraid to talk about the things exactly how he sees them, said the AAU system is not suitable for player development. The problem he sees is that AAU doesn’t motivate players to get better because they can create their team and play anyways. According to Arenas, there is a lack of proper work ethic and the incentive to improve their game.
Anyone can be AAU now. That’s not how AAU works. You didn’t play, you didn’t play today, it’s because you weren’t good enough. What are you going to do? You go train. You see Michael Jordan go train all summer to be ready for next season. You go work. You see, now the mindset isn’t there. The mindset now is ‘ok, honey, I’m going to create my own AAU team so you can be the best player on there.’ There’s no work ethic. There’s no heart; there’s no desire, there’s no fire. It’s being given.Gilbert Arenas
Arenas even went so far to compare it to an animal zoo where animals are give everything and don’t have the incentive to hunt. Even though that might be a drastic comparison, Arenas made a good point because players in that system are not incentivized to improve and understand they need to work harder on their game and that things don’t come easy to them.
It’s like f***ing zoo animals. What are zoo animals? Hey, hey, here you go. You’re not a hunter. You don’t know how to hunt, you don’t know how to gather, you don’t starve for three days and ready to rip somebody’s f**ing face off. You don’t have that feeling. That feeling comes when you have to EARN it. Anything that’s free comes with a bigger price. Earn it is the price.Gilbert Arenas
Of course, AAU basketball has its pros, but there is a unified understanding, especially among NBA players, that there need to be some changes. When you look at the current NBA, almost 30 percent of players in the league have an international background. Players coming from other parts of the world and especially Europe, have a more professional approach towards younger players. The latter already as teens play against grown men, which essentially incentivizes them to work harder and improve every aspect of their game. Whether we’ll see some changes with AAU basketball remains to be seen, but there is already an incentive that the system needs improvement.