As Kentucky marches towards its predicted “college” basketball championship, a lot is being written about the NBA rule requiring players to play one year in college or be 19 years old at the time of the draft.
Without the rule, the NCAA and the media would have an inferior product to sell to basketball fans. Before 2006 they missed out on the likes of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett, but no longer. The real stars coming out of high school since 2006 are required to work for the NCAA for a fraction of their true market value. They are sort of like “indentured servants” earning their right to make a living.
Realistically, these athletes attend college classes for one semester, not one year. If they make the required grades to be eligible, after one semester, why would they continue to attend classes? It doesn’t matter if they lose their college eligibility after March Madness, they simply want to be eligible to play in the NBA.
I don’t know what the average length of an NBA career is, but I can guess that it’s well shy of 10 years. Forcing these athletes to give up one year of potential career earnings is just not right. High school graduates are allowed to join our Military, to fight wars, but too young to play in the NBA? The argument that these “kids” need a year of college basketball falls apart when you look at the roster for this year’s NBA All-Star Game.
The NBA was willing to create the rules because the NCAA provides a cost free farm system. It’s a “win-win.” When I read that John Calipari, the Kentucky coach who openly exploits the “one and done stars,” was critical of the rule, I was impressed. But then I read on and his solution is to have a “two and done” rule. Is he joking or what?
Like most things in our culture, it’s all about the money. And there is nothing wrong with that motivation if it’s a fair deal for all concerned. But this rule does not provide a “win-win” but instead it is a “win-win-lose” arrangement. And you know who the losers are—-it’s the high school stars. But they have no voice. March Madness is great entertainment, but the “one and done” rule imposed on the star players takes a lot of the fun out of it for me. It’s hard to think of it as “college” basketball.