The college basketball season is one of the most exciting times of the year. Fans watch their teams battle to get into the NCAA Tournament, which is filled with Cinderella stories and buzzer-beating 3-pointers. But since the NBA’s 2005 collective bargaining agreement, college basketball has been robbed of its true quality.
In 2005, the NBA changed its rules regarding player eligibility. Commonly referred to as the “one-and-done rule,” all players must meet certain criteria before playing in the NBA. The NCAA usually takes the brunt of the criticism for this, but it is an NBA rule that the NCAA has no control over.
While there are separate rules for international players looking to be drafted into the NBA, the most notable change for American athletes was that a player needs to turn 19 years old during or before the calendar year of the NBA Draft that he is entering and be at least one year removed from his high school graduation.
In other words, a player who hopes to play in the NBA has a one-year waiting period between high school graduation and when he can play in the NBA. During this year, the player has three options: play professional basketball in a different league overseas, play in the NBA Developmental League or play college basketball.
Because of the exposure, the majority of players choose to play college basketball, but having college players compete for just one year prevents them from being true student-athletes.
The NBA should remove its age minimum because it cheapens the college basketball product and makes a mockery of college athletics.
Student-athletes are supposed to be students first, as the old mantra goes. But when a player enrolls in a university with no intention of earning a degree, changes need to be made.
NBADraft.net, which has no affiliation with the NBA, has a 2014 mock draft posted in which the first four players taken are current freshmen. Kansas forward Andrew Wiggins, Duke forward Jabari Parker, Kentucky forward Julius Randle and Kansas center Joel Embiid are predicted to go first through fourth. They each have hefty paychecks headed their way and none of them will ever need to use whatever major he has declared as a primary source of income.
How, then, are they supposed to embody what a student-athlete is supposed to be? The answer is that they can’t and don’t. They go to their respective universities for the sole purpose of filling their time before being NBA draft-eligible. For these players and the other freshmen that will declare for the NBA Draft after this season, class is a nuisance that happens between basketball games and practices.
This rule creates a stopgap of talent. These players are either good enough to play in the NBA now or are good enough to play in another professional league until they are NBA-ready. This means that the players who have families in difficult financial spots could earn a paycheck earlier than they currently can.
It also means the NBA suffers because these young, exciting, marketable stars aren’t helping the league. The NBA is forcing these future stars to play college basketball even though the only real winner is the university athletic programs that scoop these players up for a year.
Even though the athletic program of the university stands to gain from having an NBA-ready player suit up for a season, giving these players a scholarship, books, early registration for class, a housing stipend, meal plan and all of the other perks of being an athlete is a waste of university resources.
Money, time and other resources are being given to these players so they can, in theory, be successful on the court and in the classroom. For student-athletes that will be playing for an NBA team instead of registering for sophomore year, the classroom success is, at best, placed on the back burner. If the NBA loosens its requirements, then universities can get back to their true goal, which is to educate and train people for the workforce.
Supporters of the NBA age minimum will say that some high school stars aren’t ready for the NBA but will declare for the draft anyway. But even in this case, the player will be OK. At best, the player gets drafted, signs a lucrative contract, and plays poorly. In this case, the team will send him to the D-League to hone his skills. At worst, a team will cut him so he can go play in overseas or get picked up by another team. In both cases, the player gets paid and will be financially secure.
Kwame Brown is the poster child for players who entered the NBA out of high school and flopped in the league. Even though his career has largely been a bust, he is still making $3 million this season playing for the Philadelphia 76ers. Despite not achieving anywhere close to his potential, he has made millions throughout his career and should be financially secure for the rest of his life.
Gerald Green was drafted out of high school and struggled early in his career. He even went down to the D-League and played in Russia and China for two years. But over the next two seasons, he will make $7 million.
The other argument for the age minimum is that because education is valuable and the NBA should make players go to college. But players already have the option to play in the D-League or overseas to fill the one-year waiting period. Since there is no educational value in that, then players should have the NBA as an option as well.
If NBA-ready players cared about education, then they would stay in college for more than the one year that they have to wait before declaring for the NBA.
The NBA has cheapened NCAA basketball by giving it players that make a travesty of college athletics. In order to return college basketball to its purer roots, give talented players a chance to enter their field and give the NBA more star power, the NBA should remove its age limitations.