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High School Players Should Attend College Before the NBA
Why High School Players Shouldn't Go Directly to the NBA
Watch out, NBA—it’s the “Attack of the ‘One-and-Done’ Gang”!
A sense of normalcy has been returned to the NBA draft after years of draft-night lunacy, and we have the NBA policy mandating a player be a year removed from high school before applying for entry into the league to thank. On draft night, players with reputations built on actually playing in games are now featured, and the commentary isn’t strictly about “upside”. Even the static about how unfair it is to make an athlete go to college to become eligible for the NBA has subsided, as players and broadcasters have finally accepted the rule as a necessary evil. In this debate on the rights of high school kids to go pro, I’m going to go against the grain and voice my opinion in favor of sending kids to college. The reasons include:
1. They ARE kids. Just because someone COULD play in the NBA doesn’t mean they SHOULD play in the NBA. A twelve-year old might be mature enough to flip burgers at McDonald’s, but everyone realizes there are other issues involved and no one demands the pre-teen be allowed to ply his trade in the burger industry. The fact that Derrick Rose and O.J. Mayo were possibly involved in some shady dealings during their brief stays on campus doesn’t mean the rules are bad, but it could possibly indicate they are immature and not quite ready for the world they can’t wait to embrace. To say a rule should be abolished because someone tries to circumvent it is like saying we shouldn’t have traffic signals because somebody ran a red light. Raise the bar and let the high school kids realize the world isn’t just about them. Make emotional maturity a job requirement.
2. No one is entitled to play in the NBA. Hey, America is the land of opportunity, not entitlement. In the larger scheme of things, is it really that important for Derrick Rose to get to the NBA as quickly as possible? How is anyone hurt by allowing these guys to mature a little? Rose, Michael Beasley, Greg Oden and the rest are all fine—going to college didn’t kill ‘em. Why do we even care whether or not they can go pro out of high school? Why not show equal concern for the solid if unspectacular journeyman player who gets forced out of the league because a teenager demands to sit on the bench for three years while he develops physically? Who is lobbying for the player who succeeds through his energy and work ethic, sacrificing his body every night just to play in the league? Why is the high school kid more important? And what should we do about the early-entry players that never get drafted by the NBA? Why is their plight ignored? If forced to attend college, they can either work on their game and get to the NBA or realize they don’t have the skills and forge another career for themselves. The rule helps them, also.
3. Believe it or not, the rule mandating a year of college helps both the college and pro game. It gives the NCAA some extra star power, and it lets the NBA make some draft decisions based on something other than potential. They have a chance to see if the guys they want can really play. It also gives the NBA a fan base. Kansas State fans will tune in to watch Beasley play—they wouldn’t bother if he went pro out of high school. I don’t care how good Beasley is, Manhattan Kansas couldn’t care less about him if he didn’t play basketball there for a year.
4. The pro game is better when played by collegians because they have learned the nuances of the game. It isn’t just about taking it to the rim or shooting the three-pointer; it’s also about learning to defend on and off the ball, pass, move without the ball, dribble with either hand and develop a mid-range game. It’s about seeing a play develop three passes before it’s there. It’s also about learning how to win and becoming a leader. If anyone thinks Kevin Garnett was the leader of the Boston Celtics team that won the title in 2008, they are mistaken. Paul Pierce led them to victory. Garnett simply helped. Pierce learned how to play the game at the University of Kansas, not Boston. It took Kobe Bryant years to learn to become a leader and a winner—Bryant might disagree, but he learned a lot playing ball with Shaquille O’Neal. Could that be why Shaq was sent to Cleveland to help out LeBron James?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the early-entry problem with the NBA doesn’t have to be a problem. If high school players go pro, make their first NBA contract a seven-year deal. The NBA team that drafts the high school kid and has to pay him for seven years will make certain he can really play. They can’t unload him as quickly, and the players can’t adopt the attitude of wanting to get that first contract “over with” to get to that 110 million-dollar deal. If a player goes pro after his first year of college, give him a six-year deal; two years earns a five-year contract, three years merits a four-year deal, and four years of college gets the standard rookie contract. Everyone’s contract expires at roughly the same age.
Speaking of contracts, perhaps the NBA should eliminate guaranteed contracts for rookies drafted in the first round. How many times do we hear a player proclaim that he’s going pro if he will be selected in the first round of the NBA draft—otherwise he’s going back to school? Let any player who wants to go to the NBA be forced to make the team. If a kid is truly good enough to play pro basketball, the elimination of guaranteed contracts shouldn’t worry him at all, should it? How many of these kids trying to get into the NBA recognize they are outmatched as professionals or even collegians, and are hoping to get that guaranteed contract before scouts realize they’re no good? If you think that never happens, well—I’ve got some swamp land in Florida to sell to you.
The one-year rule is there, and it was put in place because the NBA recognized the need to stop drafting kids to play pro ball with men. They addressed a real problem because early entry hurt the game more than it helped it, and that problem will resurface if the rule goes away. Forget all the “16 out of 24 players in the All-Star game went pro out of high school” talk (or whatever the number really was). The guys will still make the All-Star game if they go to college—if they are good enough. Claiming an injustice has been committed is absurd. If college is so distasteful, the NBA should institute a minimum age. No teenagers admitted. If a high school player doesn’t want to go to college until he turns 20, well—McDonald’s is probably hiring and he can work with the twelve-year old burger-flipping prodigy.
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