Colby Cosh has some worthwhile thoughts on LeBron James and amateurism; I'm not sold on whether the NCAA should give up on amateurism completely. Perhaps the real issue is the lack of a real minor league system in basketball and football; at least baseball and hockey players don't have to go to college to have a shot in the pros (the occasional LeBron James or Kevin Garnett aside). On the other hand, men's college basketball and football (in Division I-A) are by far the most popular college sports, precisely because they're the venue where the future pros can make a mark, and preserving this system is what keeps Division I athletic departments in the black.
Of course, once you start paying the players in the “money sports,” that opens a whole other can of worms, particularly in the lawsuit-happy realm of Title IX. So I can certainly see why the NCAA doesn't want to go there.
Previous snarky comment on LeBron James here.