As of this writing the NFL and XFL have no formal partnership. As of this writing, a day after XFL players were allowed to sign with NFL teams five has already done so with two being the faces of the league. That led man fans of the XFL wondering how can a league that will more than likely lose it’s top players every year survive? The simple answer? It’s high-level football in a country that can’t get enough of the sport. However, the league has to have players to market and while I’ve seen people on social media compare the XFL to the NBA G-League there are similarities but one big difference.
G-League has NBA backing. XFL doesn’t.
That in its self creates a problem but with WWE Chairman Vince McMahon providing enough money for three years of operation it isn’t a pressing need. Not to mention playing games when you’re the only football on. What is a need for the league is the emergence of new stars. Gone are the presumed league MVP quarterback PJ Walker who reunited with his college coach Matt Rhule and signed with the Carolina Panthers along with fellow signal-caller Jordan Ta’amu who signed with the Kansas City Cheifs. Who is next to take the torch? Who knows. The G-League knows.
Watch any NBA game and I bet you at least one of the teams playing has some story of a player grinding it out in the G-League improving and finally earning a shot with a major team. Or of a young player who found himself out of his team’s rotation was assigned to his clubs G-League affiliate, honed his skills and is now a key cog in the rotation. Go to any G-League game and you’ll see good basketball and even better stories. Sadly to the average fan who values name value, the G-League is second rate and that’s not only unfortunate but simply not true.
There is talent down there both players and coaches. Defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse was the head coach of the Raptors 905. Budding Raptors star Pascal Siakam honed his skills down there and blossomed into what he is now. Miami Heat point guard Kendrick Nunn tore it up for the Santa Cruz Warriors, got his chance with the Heat in the preseason and hasn’t looked back. Los Angeles Lakers guard Alex Curso spent several years with the Oklahoma City Blue before breaking out as a cult hero for many Lakers fans. Heck, even my favorite player Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie started out in the G-League for both the Grand Rapids Drive and Windy City Bulls before landing a 10-day contract with the Nets and never looked back.
All great stories. Dinwiddie overcoming an injury that lowered his draft stock but instead of returning to Colorado he bet on himself and declared becoming a second-round pick who bounced around. For Siakam it was an opportunity at an NBA Without Borders camp that put him on the radar of coaches which helped him land a scholarship at New Mexico State and after a standout season became a first-round draft pick who was seen as raw talent. Unlike many raw talents, he honed his craft in the G-League. For Nunn, it was turning a troubled past into motivation. For Curso, it was simply taking advantage of an opportunity.
Why can’t the XFL do the same? There are plenty of Dinwiddie’s, Nunn’s, Curso’s and Siakam’s out there. There are plenty of players who fall through the cracks or simply overlooked. Having covered Division II football the past three years I can tell you first hand there is some serious talent down there. Even players who transfer down from Division I still don’t beat out other players. One player I covered Dallas Renagades wide receiver Josh Crockett is one of those players. Playing alongside wide receiver JT Luper who LED ALL OF LEVELS OF FOOTBALL IN RECEIVING YARDS in 2017, at the University of Central Oklahoma, Crockett was a little bit overshadowed but just as effective earning a training camp invite with the Kansas City Cheifs after an impressive tryout. That tryout turned into a stint on the practice squad. That stint on the practice squad turned into an opportunity with the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats. That opportunity turned into a starting opportunity with the Renegades. There are more players and stories like his.
Remember Walker was cut from the Colts on a couple of occasions including the practice squad and after a brief stint in the XFL is in line to not only make an NFL roster but be a backup. Ta’amu was considered too small with a weak arm coming out of Ole Miss and is now in line to maybe backup the best quarterback in the league. Both were relative unknowns to the common fan. Both made a name for themselves and the league.
I ask why can’t others?