NBA age limit: Gift or Curse?

Father's Day 2012 Memorabilia

LeBron JamesKobe BryantKevin Garnett. These guys are physical freaks of nature and their skill levels coming out of high school were head and shoulders above anyone else their own age. Due to this, they decided to skip college and take their talents straight to the pros, and they made it look easy. LeBron, as a junior in high school, was so big and so skilled he made me question his real age. Maybe he was shaving off a couple of years like some Cuban and Dominican baseball players.  However, for every LeBron there is also a Kwame BrownSebastian Telfair and a Darius Miles. So many of these kids think they have what it takes to make it in the pros out of high school, but none of them actually have it.  High school didn’t teach them how to be men or how to be responsible with their new money or fame. Dwight Howard can’t make a decision about where he should play. He also can’t keep his mouth shut about it until a decision is made. Andrew Bynum gets benched for taking a three pointer in the middle of a game, a move that was way beyond his skill level and against the game plan the team had established. His response after being benched?  He is going to keep doing it. I don’t remember a class on public speaking or media relations in high school. AAU leagues don’t teach how to be coached, play for a team and respect the authority of people in that position even if they make less money than you. All they teach in AAU is how to get yours:  get your points, get the attention of whomever is watching, and get paid. Maybe if Eddy Curry went to college he would have learned to better appreciate exercise and conditioning. If he had, maybe he would understand how important his body is. Instead he was given millions as a teenager before he actually did anything.

It’s not the players fault.  If someone was throwing millions of dollars at me to play a game that I’ve been playing for free all my life, I would take the money too.  Now we have a real issue. At what point does the league say “these kids need more experience” before they start giving away the farm and the future of their franchises to young men that can’t even get a job in the mailroom of most companies? Which side is going to be the responsible party here? I wonder if anyone reading this knows who the highest payed player in the NBA was this year:  Rashard Lewis. Yes, that is Rashard Lewis. He is still in the NBA, and he just made 22 million dollars this past year. Next year he’ll make almost 24 million, and he didn’t go to college either. So I guess it worked out well in his favor, but what does it say about the game of basketball at the professional level?
 The quality of the professional game is nowhere close to as high a level as it was in the 80’s and 90’s. Magic and BirdJordan and Isaiah. Not to mention the college game which is almost non-existent now. Every year there are 5 new kids on the team just waiting for the bell to ring, so they can jump ship also thanks to the NBAs silly one year of out high school rule. It’s killing both levels of a sport that I love to watch. I’ve often heard the following argument to why the age limit is wrong: “if they can go to war for our country they should be able to play pro ball”. That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. I don’t see any CEOs or HR recruiters for Fortune 500 companies attending any high school graduations. Any company has the right to require a certain level or education in order for someone to work for them. The NBA should be no different.
But do they want that right? They don’t have to take the undersized kids that played 20 games in college but lack the experience, mental and physical conditioning to undergo the 82 game schedule across the U.S. That would deter some of the players from jumping early wouldn’t it? What’s wrong with wanting to see some more experience before investing millions instead of investing millions in what could potentially be – just out of fear that you are going to miss out on the next big Bron?
If the owners can’t save themselves and not take the chance, and the players aren’t dumb enough to not take the money then this is obviously why the league needs a governing body. Someone to look out for the best interest of the league and the sport in general – maybe like a commissioner.  What? They do? Oh, my bad. Well anyway. I’m not gonna turn this into a Stern bashing rant (I have a Selig rant coming however) but one thing that the Commish of baseball has done right is his policy on when you can enter his league. If you choose to go straight from high school, more power to you. But if you choose to go to college you commit for at least 3 years and be at least 21 years old. This policy helps the quality of professional baseball, college baseball, and the minor league systems, all of which in the basketball counterparts could use some help. So please Mr. Stern, take this one thing from good ol Bud and do what’s right for the sport that I love.

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