Right now, you have to be 19 to be drafted into the NBA (your high school graduating class has to be one year removed plus you need to be 19 by the end of the year). David Stern has suggested that he’d like to see that number at 20.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar says he’d like it to be 21. Associated Press has the quote:
“They get precocious kids from high school who think they’re rock stars — ‘Where’s my $30 million?’ ” said Abdul-Jabbar, who was in Omaha to speak at the B’nai B’rith sports banquet. “The attitudes have changed, and the game has suffered because of that, and it has certainly hurt the college game.”
Let’s remember the system Abdul-Jabbar came out of: When he got to UCLA, NCAA rules did not allow him to play as a freshman. (Which led to legendary games between UCLA’s freshman and varsity teams.) He played until he was a senior, and then went to the NBA (where he won six titles, six MVPs and became the sports all time leading scorer).
The question has always been — why should LeBron James or Kobe Bryant or Dwight Howard or Kevin Garnet be forced to spend a year in college if they have the game to be in the NBA? Isn’t it the American way that if you can do the job you deserve a chance?
But the NBA’s decision was about money and marketing. Always is. First, a year in college allows the general public to learn about these players and create some marketing buzz. Hard core hoops junkies knew who John Wall was before he went to Kentucky this year, but most people didn’t. Now he comes in a name product people have seen play.
Second, the age limit protects the owners from themselves. The problem was never the LeBrons or Kobes, it was the guys with potential that teams drafted out of high school that never panned out. Teams felt pressure to take potential stars for fear of missing out on the next big thing, but if they didn’t pan out that was a lot of money thrown away. David Stern works or the owners, don’t forget that.
Abdul-Jabbar thinks the system was pretty good when he came up, and we should go back to something closer to that. Even if that flies in the face of basic American principles.