Duke freshman big man Marvin Bagley III and his family are at the center of an Oregonian investigation about how the family potentially acquired money from Nike during Bagley’s high school career.
At the center of the investigation, reported by Jeff Manning and Brad Schmidt, is Bagley and his family joining the Nike EYBL through the Phoenix Phamily program — organized and coached by Marvin Bagley Jr.
As documented in the report, the Bagley family relocated from a working-class Phoenix suburb to a wealthy Southern California neighborhood after the Phoenix Phamily (and Bagley III) joined the Nike EYBL. The new high school that Bagley III joined, Sierra Canyon, was also a private school with tuition that can be as much as $36,250 a year.
The Oregonian story also points out how Bagley Jr. said in a 2016 Sports Illustrated story that the family was relying on Nike sponsorship and an athletic apparel company he was starting “to make ends meet.”
On the surface level, it appears that Nike was paying a lot of money to the Bagley family to secure Bagley III playing in the EYBL through the invitation of the Phoenix Phamily into the league. It should also be quite clear that Nike also hopes to eventually sign Bagley III to an apparel contract after the Duke freshman officially declared for the 2018 NBA Draft on Wednesday night.
This might look bad. It might look like a potential NCAA violation. But the Bagleys also did what any family would have done in that spot: they improved their lives based on their son’s youth basketball prowess. This is how youth basketball has worked for years.
Shoe companies, public and private high schools and specific grassroots teams all contribute to the movement of players at the high school level all around the country. Transfers at this level happen for a number of reasons. There are a number of contributing factors to each situation. It isn’t usually directly tied to just any one reason. The Bagley family is just one example of a number of families who are improving their lives from youth basketball.
While Nike looks like the main culprit in the Bagleys improving their lifestyle — and they very well might be — it is also impossible to tell without a paper trail or any proper documentation. Nike is also allowed to fund its own travel teams however they see fit. This entire thing could be perfectly legal in the eyes of the NCAA. If it wasn’t, Marvin Bagley would not have played for Duke.