I got into quite the little debate the other night with Keeping It Heel staff writers Matthew Haley and Captain Ben Williams on the NBA age limit. NBA commissioner David Stern instituted the rule that currently stands today barring high school players from declaring for the draft. The rule stipulates that a player cannot enter the draft until one year after his high school class has graduated. Ever since that rule was instituted, Stern has admitted openly that he would like to increase the age limit. After he made recent comments indicating once again that he wants to re-examine the rule, the debate rages on yet again. I was surprised honestly to find that at least in the discussion I took part in recently, I was in the minority in my opinion.
I’ll start off by saying that I was very happy when the league banned HS players from jumping straight to the pro’s. The only players in my opinion that had any business doing that were Lebron James, Moses Malone, Dwight Howard, and Kevin Garnett. Kobe Bryant was crap his rookie season and many others have been complete embarrassments. I’m also not a huge fan of the “one and done” phenomena that has swept college basketball ever since. In fact, I hate Kentucky mostly because Calipari has made that program into a one and done factory.
Acknowledging the flaws in the system, at least it’s not the system baseball operates under. I like college baseball and follow the Diamond Heels, as much as I can. College baseball is no where near as exciting as it’s basketball and football counterparts. A big reason for that (aside from the complete lack of coverage which puzzles me) is that many of the top high school players enter the draft and head to the minor leagues instead of going to college. Major league baseball doesn’t have a rule against an 18 year old hitting the field fresh out of high school. Imagine Brice Harper and Manny Machado in college baseball right now. By at least blocking high school players from entering the league for a minimum of one year, at least college basketball gets a glimpse of the best players before they take off to the pro’s.
While I fully support the NFL’s rule of a three year wait, I don’t think three years is necessarily appropriate for basketball. Football is a violent sport and I don’t want to see any kids getting killed in that league. Basketball isn’t even close in terms of violence or the physical pounding. It was necessary for the NFL to keep Maurice Clarett out when he tried to sue the league as a stupid 19 year old. But does anybody really think there is anything wrong with Kendall Marshall and Harrison Barnes going to the NBA? It shouldn’t, both could absolutely get better with another year, or two for that matter in Chapel Hill. But they don’t need it in order to make it and that’s the bottom line. Your not restricting a players ability to earn if the stability of the sport and the best interests of the players career is taken into account with the rule.
And that’s exactly what a two year rule would do. College basketball and the NBA would stand to benefit from putting an end to the “one and done” trend. The NBA Draft is nothing like the NFLs because it’s still largely based around a players potential, not his production. A rule that prevents players like Marvin Williams, Brendan Wright, Austin Rivers, James Michael McAdoo and so many others who entered the league (or flirted with it) any failed to meet their lofty expectations of them on draft day. Sure lots of players improve big time between their sophomore and junior seasons, just look at John Henson. Far more freshman leave early and fail than sophomores and that’s a fact.
Finally there’s the student athlete argument. It’s great in theory, keep the kids in school for three years and force them to actually be student athletes. But that’s an illusion. Do you really believe that college football players are more educated and take their studies more seriously than their basketball counterparts? If you do, well, I’m not quite sure what to say to you other than your dead wrong. Players will do what they want to do, the NCAA has universities and athletic programs that always have been and always will be dirty. As much as we want it, college sports will never be the squeaky clean, honest to goodness, slice of American Pie that we try to pretend it is or should be. Sorry everyone, when billions of dollars are at stake, well, you can’t have your cake and eat it to. If the rule is changed it needs to be with all three parties involved. The NCAA, the NBA and most of all, the players.