New NBA commissioner Adam Silver is on a warpath. As the newly appointed face of the NBA, Silver needs to make his mark somewhere—and if that involves changing the current NBA age restriction which requires players entering the league to be 19 years old, then he’s all for it.
The “one-and-done” rule has allowed the likes of Derrick Rose, John Wall and Kyrie Irving to set the NCAA ablaze with a single season of college play before jumping to the Association. Stellar freshmen classes with NBA aspirations have taken the collegiate scene by storm, garnering mass media coverage and hype. Recent NBA drafts have been headlined by freshmen, following the 2005 installation of the rule which requires that mega high school stars such as LeBron James and Dwight Howard be one year removed from high school before going pro.
Silver not only has plans to change the age limit, but possibly even the structure of the draft lottery and playoff format. Should the NBA eliminate the “one-and-done” rule? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.
Riley: If you eliminate the one-and-done rule, then you soften the hype surrounding high school careers and collegiate freshman seasons. With the NBA drafting many superstar freshmen, it’s become a phenomenon to watch a player such as Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins, knowing their first college season will be their last. For people already against the current age limit, requiring an additional season of college play will only make the majority of world-class basketball players consider an overseas career over enrolling at an American campus. Overseas competition or even the NBA D-League offers players a chance to improve their skills while earning a paycheck, instead of the showing up for the bright lights and broke nights of NCAA play. How many kids would swallow the idea of playing for free in the NCAA and being forced into a two-year stint there when they can play against superior competition and visit the globe, all while playing for pay in international competition?
Green: Upping the age limit to 20 years old not only protects the players, but it protects the NBA. How many horror stories of draft busts and bench warming do we have to hear before the NBA finally decides to step up and enforce such a rule? For every Kobe Bryant, there’s four Kwame Browns. The majority of NBA careers are short and sweet, so pushing up the age limit only helps young players develop the preparation and maturity that they’ll need at the next level to maintain a career. Freshmen phenoms are still going to be great. Keep in mind that hardcore NCAA lovers drooled over Michigan’s “Fab Five,” and each member from that group came back for multiple seasons before jetting to the NBA, so it isn’t like the allure or luster of a hot freshman player won’t be there simply because we know we’ll see him again next year. Instead of the ridiculous situation in the NCAA now, where any college team can temporarily land an incoming megastar and change the course of a season; this actually will make college teams stronger across the board as more and more retuning players help strengthen a sport—as opposed to coaches, players and fans starting anew each season with a different group of names to cheer for.
Riley: The attraction to any freshman’s story is knowing that the player may leave for the NBA next season. It makes fans cherish every moment, because they never know if they’ll see the same type of production next season. There’s also the risk of injury if players are forced to stay in the NCAA for multiple years, as well as the risk of having one’s game dissected and ripped apart as more footage and scouting videos are collected. Yes, that may protect the NBA, but it hurts the players. Imagine a player with a star-studded high school career, who is destined for the NBA but soon gets derailed because they’re forced into a second college season. I understand Silver trying to force his imprint on the Association, but blatantly affecting a player’s earning potential isn’t the way to go about things.
Since the “one-and-done” rule went into effect in 2005, the stories of the top college freshmen have been so compelling because we all knew that we would only get one college season out of them before they departed for the NBA. Carmelo Anthony’s story was perfect: a big-time freshman who steered his team to a national title before leaving for the NBA. How much less exciting would Anthony’s story have been if he did all of that, came back for his second season and got hurt or simply bombed? Ask any Syracuse Orange fan and they’ll tell you they love Anthony, primarily because he was able to do a whole lot in a very short time-span.
Green: Your Carmelo Anthony analogy can go both ways, though. What if Anthony came back for his sophomore year and won another title? What if it was two championships, instead of one? Melo’s freshman year at Syracuse was the same year LeBron was a senior in high school. If Melo was forced to come back for his sophomore year, he would have competed against LeBron in an NCAA Tournament. That would have been just as great to experience.
When I think about this potential rule change, I think of how difficult a choice Jabari Parker faced just last week when he was trying to decide whether to stay at Duke or enter the NBA draft. Parker was so torn because he wanted to do more on the college basketball level, but he just couldn’t turn down the opportunity to chase the NBA dream. He eventually decided to enter the draft, but if Silver changes the rules, some other kid in the future won’t have to make such a life-altering decision at such a young age.