In a recent article on ESPN, Chris Broussard reports that the NBA Players Union wants to end the NBA’s requirement that you be 19 years old and at least one year removed from your high school graduation.
Let’s analyze this situation by comparing the draft requirements of the MLB and NFL. The NFL has by far the strictest requirements and that is for good reason. The NFL is the most “dangerous” sport and we are constantly reminded of that by the fines for illegal hits and injuries that seemingly occur every single week. The official requirement is that you must be three years removed from your high school graduation. You do not have to go to college during the three year span, but not doing so would be foolish and is rarely ever done.
The MLB has the most complex draft eligibility requirements. A player is eligible for the MLB draft if he has graduated high school and has not attended a college or junior college. If you decided to attend a junior college, you are eligible regardless of how many years you attend. If you decided to go to a four-year college or university, you must either complete your junior or senior year or be at least 21 years old.
So how does the NBA requirements stack up? The current rule needs to change. The rule is damaging the college basketball game with the tremendous influx of one and done players. I am also opposed to allowing players to go straight from high school to the NBA. High school players obviously disagree with this belief, as quoted in Broussard’s article:
The vast majority of players feel a player should have the right to make a living. If he has the talent and wants to make money to help his family, he should have that right. It’s just a matter of principle.
The problem with this thinking is that far too many high school players think they have the talent to make it in the NBA, and don’t. Do not let Kobe Bryant and LeBron James fool you. It is rare to be an absolute superstar directly out of high school. For anyone that remembers James’ final two years of high school, he was a physical anomaly. Yes, a player that can make the NBA out of high school is talented and can make a living, but they could just as easily be out of the league in three years without a college education to fall back on. If you are that good in high school, you are going to college for free anyway.
I don’t think they need to go as far as the NFL does, since the game is not as physical. I think two years removed from high school would be a great rule and that is similar to what David Stern wants (20 years old). It would help the college game and it would give the players some education to fall back on. It also allows the players to gain some more discipline and to further develop themselves as players. College is much better competition than high school.
I am also not completely opposed to removing age requirement. If the age limit was removed, I would want to see the Developmental League further developed into a minor league system. The MLB can take high school graduates, because they have a robust tiered minor league system. You can make a living playing in the minors. I don’t expect to have a tiered NBA system, considering their are far less players on an NBA roster, but a few more teams would be a great start.
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