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article imageOp-Ed: NBA Age Requirement Rule Nets Unexpected Results

By Sadiq Green     Jul 8, 2008 in Sports
Last year NBA Commissioner David Stern imposed a new age requirement for NBA players. This policy banned high school players from entering the NBA draft. The rule requires potential draftees to participate on the collegiate level for one year.
Stern’s rule is supposedly to give the athletes another year to hone their game and make them more NBA ready, so that kids wouldn’t come into the league before they were ready and subsequently fail to succeed.
There have been many high school players that have come into the NBA and starred from their onset. Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are three of the most prominent of this group and they are the cream of the crop of marquee names in the league. There have equally been many high school players who have come into the league and have not even made the teams that drafted them or have bombed, clearly not ready. Leon Smith and the infamous Korleone Young come to mind.
David Stern gives himself a real pat on the back for this rule. However, there are a few problems with this system. Players like KG, Kobe or LeBron, who were clearly NBA-ready coming out of high school would be forced to attend college for one season instead of participating in and learning the NBA game. It also runs the risk of a player sustaining an injury during that one college season and potentially jeopardizing their future draft status. Greg Oden suffered a broken wrist prior to his one season at Ohio State. Fortunately for him, his draft status was not affected. But there have been whispers that the micro-fracture knee injury that forced him to miss his initial NBA season could have been avoided if he were in the league instead of college. To be fair, there really is no way of knowing.
Stern was working on the premise that the NBA’s game has declined, and younger kids don’t play fundamental basketball. He purports that the minimum age rule is intended to improve the image of the league and improve these fundamental skills. At least Stern does not say it is about education. Harvey Araton of the New York Times says among other things:
“From Stern’s position it’s all about marketing, herding the chosen ones into the madness of march to raise their profiles by the time he calls them to the stage at the NBA draft….”
Legendary college coach Bobby Knight too has been highly critical of this rule. He pointed out on ESPN earlier this year:
“Most one and done freshmen forget their classroom locations the minute eligibility is guaranteed through the NCAA tournament”
Former Michigan and current San Diego State Head basketball Coach Steve Fisher has called Stern’s policy un American stating:
“If we had one senator's son who fell in that category, that would be the end of it.”
What about the player who is academically ineligible for college participation upon graduating HS? Eyes will be on Los Angeles’ Brandon Jennings in the coming weeks. Jennings is considered the best High School point guard prospect in the nation. Jennings has commited to play at Arizona this fall. He will find out Friday if he meets the minimum NCAA academic requirement. If he does not, there are strong indications that he will be exploring the possibility of playing a year in Europe for a junior or senior professional league team. This way he would be able to play against top competition and earn a potential six-figure salary, while waiting to meet the NBA’s age requirement. He would also potentially be providing his parents with a six-month European vacation.
This could also be an avenue for players who are not necessarily ineligible for NCAA play who may be forced to wait due to the NBA’s policy. This provides players a nice route to circumvent the NBA’s current rule. The father of one of next season’s top HS seniors, Brooklyn’s Lincoln high school’s Lance Stephenson is eyeing this situation closely.
In requiring just one year of college participation, the league has more and more kids declaring for the draft earlier, thus having them viewed as hired guns for one season. As it turned out in this years NBA draft, 11 freshmen were chosen out of 14 lottery selections.
Expanding on Steve Fisher’s Un American comments, American kids have a choice to go to college or the workforce after high school, and many pick the workforce. Why are basketball players any different? If you were coming out of high school and had the choice between a full-ride scholarship and the high paying job you were going to college for which would you choose? Seems like a dumb question to me. If it is about education they can go back and get their degree when they retire in 15 years.
It is indeed unconstitutional, in my opinion, to have this for the NBA when no other sport or job opportunity – besides one you’d have special training for i.e. doctors, lawyers, law enforcement, etc. -in the country does. It can be argued that this would be acceptable for the NFL due to the physicality of the league. Or even hockey, but Sidney Crosby dispells that premise. The NBA is a relatively low contact sport, so it is not about physical danger. It is about David Stern determining whether a person is mentally mature enough to play in the league. An athlete should be able to decide his own fate instead of having it decided for him. If he isn’t ready to play, but he wants to declare that should be his choice. And if he is ready to play he should be able to.
It’s the American way. It is his life, not David Stern’s. He is imposing what he believes is in the best interest of the kids. America guarantees that they should determine themselves what is in their own best interest. 18 year-olds can vote and go to war you know.
According to John Canzano, Stern is currently whispering about the possibility of raising the minimum age when the Collective Bargaining Agreement comes up for discussion again in 2011. If that is the case, I do indeed envision and I would encourage some form of legal intervention of this rule in the future. That too is the American way.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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