Shabazz Muhammad was exposed Friday for having lied about his age to appear younger and thus more desirable as an NBA prospect. Muhammad was born on Nov. 13, 1992, but his birthday in UCLA’s media guide listed him as born in 1993. That makes him 20 and not 19 as has been stated.
When Muhammad was introduced by TruTV Friday during UCLA’s NCAA Tournament game against Minnesota, a graphic listed his age as 20 and included an asterisk to note the controversy.
The story of Muhammad’s true age was revealed in a Los Angeles Times column written by Ken Bensinger. In the column published Friday, Bensinger exposes Muhammad’s father, Ron Holmes, as a man intent on beating a system that is rigged against collegiate athletes. According to Bensinger, Holmes, when faced with the information, denied that his son was really 20 years old and born in Long Beach, Calif., and said Shabazz was 19 and born in Nevada. Holmes changed his story — presumably after being presented with evidence to the contrary — and then reportedly tried to buy out Bensinger by seemingly offering to give him exclusive scoops in exchange for keeping the truth about his son’s age private.
Changing his son’s age served a two-fold purpose: It allowed Muhammad to compete against younger, less developed players, which made it easier for him to look more dominant and therefore become more desirable to colleges. Being young and dominant is also attractive to NBA scouts evaluating prospects. The revelation about Muhammad’s age changes the thinking; would he have been as dominant had he been playing against competition his age?
Muhammad was initially suspended by the NCAA before the season began for allegedly receiving improper benefits in the form of recruiting trips being paid. He got off after a letter leaked that made it seem like the NCAA was unfairly targeting him, but there wasn’t much of a question about him taking the money.
If you read the entire column, and combine it with what we know about Muhammad from before the season began, it’s hard to question how much his family took in improper benefits.
Holmes says his son choosing to play at UCLA “was strictly a business decision.”
If you read between the lines, it’s not difficult to understand what he means. As the Times column states, Adidas began sponsoring Muhammad’s AAU team around 2010. The apparel companies get involved with these players during high school (or earlier) and can begin funneling money to families/coaches/advisers through AAU teams. Naturally, where did Muhammad choose to go to school? UCLA, which is an Adidas school. And what apparel company sponsors Muhammad’s sister, Asia, who is a fledgling professional tennis player? Yup, you guessed it.
When Holmes says choosing UCLA was a “business decision,” you know exactly what he means.
Image via @cjzero
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