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Should The NBA Raise the Age Minimum

Updated on March 13, 2014

A History on the Age Limit

There has been some talk on potentially raising the age limit in the NBA (National Basketball Association). Back in the day when the NBA was in its infancy, players were required to have been graduated from high school for at least four years, meaning only upperclassmen in college were draft eligible. This worked out fine as many young men acquired an education while prepping themselves for a potential career in professional basketball. Then the ABA (American Basketball Association) was formed in 1967. Wanting to compete with the NBA, they did not keep players back because they were underclassmen, meaning that sophomores and freshmen could go play at the professional level quicker. The ABA suddenly became more appealing to poorer Black athletes as a quick way to cash in their talents. Why spend many years working towards a degree that they may never use when they could do what they love and make money?

This allowed younger athletes to step into the limelight after only a few years of college, the first being Spencer Haywood. After two seasons of college basketball he entered the ABA in the year 1969. His rookie season saw him become Rookie of the Year as well as MVP all before the age of 21. Soon after, he joined the Seattle Supersonics of the NBA but violated their age policy by only being three years removed from high school. The NBA threatened to void Haywood's contract and sanction the Supersonics. So the question was asked, could a player not four years removed from high school play in the NBA? Haywood was willing to do whatever it took for the answer to be "yes". He filed an antitrust suit against the NBA that would dispose of all sanctions against the Supersonics and allow him to play in the NBA. The case eventually ended up in the US Supreme Court (we take our basketball serious in the United States) and Haywood won 7-2. He went on to average over 20 points and 10 rebounds with the Supersonics. After this example of a successful player underclassman succeeding in the NBA, a new question was posed, could underclassmen theoretically succeed in the NBA?

The man that started the high school revolution
The man that started the high school revolution

Moses Malone Skips College

After Haywood, the NBA became a little less strict on how many years before a player could enter the NBA. This prompted a mass exodus of underclassmen to join the NBA ranks after only two years of college prep. Underclassmen became the new norm for the NBA, and it was working too. Then Moses Malone decided to test the boundaries of the age limit by entering the draft right after High School, because the ABA had no restrictions on age. He went on to have one of the most dominant careers ever in professional sports. After receiving numerous awards and being named one of the 50 greatest players of all time, he raised an important question.... did players have to play college to succeed in the NBA?

Notable Player That Have Skipped College

Kevin Garnett

Kobe Bryant

Jermaine O' Neal

Tracy McGrady

Amar'e Stoudemire

Lebron James

Dwight Howard

Latest Developements

The ABA of course folded, and was absorbed into the NBA to form a combined league. The rules for players entering the NBA had become less strict for the players, opening the door for high schoolers to join the professional ranks. For one reason or another, few did. Besides Malone and a few other players, not many joined the NBA ranks. That was until highly touted recruit Kevin Garnett made the choice to skip college and enter the draft. This caused a lot of strife because many thought that these younger people were not ready for the rigors of the NBA. After Garnett proved the skeptics wrong, there was a rush of highly touted recruits to enter the NBA ranks. While some of these players ended up becoming very good, many of them failed miserably in their dream to play professional basketball. They just weren't ready. The top recruits would establish themselves, but the other 90% just couldn't get it together. That is why the NBA decided to change the rules in the 2005 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) so that players had to be 19 to be able to enter the NBA draft. Lots of these young players wanted to skip college, but not if it meant potentially losing out on millions of dollars. This meant that most players had to wait a year, so they went to college to improve their draft stock anyway. Reinforcing the age minimum was the 2011 CBA where it was agreed that players not only had to be 19, but one year removed from high school graduation to even enter the draft. This meant that college (at least for freshman year) was a no-brainer for all students. Hence the "one and done" rule, saying that a player must complete one year of college before they can enter the NBA.

Two of the best players not to enter college
Two of the best players not to enter college

Last 5 Drafts Freshmen Results

Year
# of Freshmen in 1st round
# of Freshmen in Top 5
Notables
2009
4/30
1/5
Tyreke Evans, Demar Derozan
2010
7/30
3/5
John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe
2011
6/30
3/5
Kyrie Irving
2012
8/30
3/5
Anthony Davis, Bradley Beal
2013
6/30
1/5
Too Early to Tell

Should the NBA raise the age limit?

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What the Last 5 Years Have Shown

As shown in the afore mentioned table, not many freshmen are taken in the first round of the NBA draft. The highest percentage of freshmen taken in the first round is only 26% in the 2012 draft. Three of the top five draft picks are usually freshmen, save for 2009 and most recently 2013. This shows that the number of freshmen entering the league is not that big of a problem. No one expects much of a second round picks, in fact most of them play very few minutes and are cut before their careers can take off. That is why I only looked at the first round, where teams look to draft a potential starter or franchise player. As for those franchise players, most are found in the top 5 picks in a draft. As for the 2012 and 2013 drafts, some of those freshmen do not look entirely impressive (2013 especially). However, a team needs to give a player 2-3 years to see what they have. Demar Derozan looked like a bust forever until most recently where he has developed into an All-Star caliber talent. Tyreke Evans, while not the franchise player the Kings thought they were getting when they drafted him, has become a productive second or third scoring option. Demarcus Cousins, John Wall, and Kyrie Irving are the faces of their respective franchises and All-Star players. Anthony Davis looks to be a future Hall-Of-Famer, and the 2013 draft needs a few more years before one can put the dreaded "bust" label on it. It is worth noting that the top pick in that draft, freshman Anthony Bennett, has turned things around as of late and could become a productive player in a year or two.

Thoughts on the Future

As shown by the past five years, freshmen do not dominate the first round of the draft. They do, however, dominate the top 5 picks. While there have been some busts, there have also been All-Stars and potential Hall-Of-Famers. Most of the players listed are averaging over or close to 20 points per game and expanding the possibilities of their positions. To simply put it, freshmen are leaving college early because there is nothing left to accomplish. They have done what most set out to do and established themselves as potential franchise players for NBA teams. Any draft pick is a gamble to some extent. There are always risks when selecting a player as some sure-fire draft picks (Greg Oden) turn out to be colossal busts. However, those that take a gamble on a standout freshman, have proven to be blessed with good players. That, along with an actual lack of freshmen in the first round, is why I believe the NBA should leave the eligibility rule as is, better known as the "one and done" . One year in college, and then off to the pros for a small percentage standout freshmen.

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    • Alphadogg16 profile image

      Kevin W 3 years ago from Texas

      Great hub MikeBig, Basketball has always been my first love, I've been a Bulls fan over 30 years, pre MJ, when Artis Gilmore and Orlando Woolridge were the Bulls stars. I really do not think changing the age requirement will change anything. It's in the up bringing and in the media hype. Some people mature faster than others and some simply never mature at all. You can't wave millions of dollars in a kids face and expect them to stay in school. When your giving kids 180 million shoe contracts before they even step onto in NBA court.......school becomes obsolete.