With the NBA Draft fast approaching, the lives of the young men entering the league will forever be changed. Players such as Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle will be given large amounts of money to do whatever they choose with, along with the fish bowl lifestyle and fame that comes with being an NBA player.
Yet just a few months ago, they were still college kids living off of fast food and money from their parents. It’s unfair to say these kids will fall victim to the limelight and stardom of being a professional athlete, just glance at the careers of Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Tracy McGrady and Dwight Howard among others. All faired just fine coming out of high school.
However, it’s also unfair to say these young men are mature and completely ready for the transition into the association.
The average career length in the NBA is a shade under five years. Say a player enters the league at the age of 19. On average, that player will exit the game of basketball and his career around the age of 24. Likely, this player was taught nothing about financial security, what to do post-NBA career wise and how to correctly grow and mature into a professional athlete in their short reign at the collegiate ranks. Within five years of retirement, 60% of former players in the NBA are bankrupt.
To understand how a restriction rule would better the game, focus not on the hardwood, but the gridiron.
To declare yourself eligible for the NFL Draft, you must complete three years of college football (you don’t officially have to play for a college, but the three year rule is still in place). Come time for the combine and workouts, you see a noticeably more mature pool of players when compared to the NBA. With this in mind, maturity and character issues are less seen in football players when matched with basketball counterparts due to a delay in transition, allowing more time for development physically and mentally.
Obviously, there is no direct correlation between what age the player enters a draft and how successful they are. Yet time and time again, young guns who were once thought to be ready to take on the world are seen taking an earlier than expected exit from their respective sport.
For example, say a two year rule comes into effect, requiring all players to complete at least their freshman and sophomore season of college before declaring themselves eligible for the NBA Draft. How would both the NCAA and the NBA benefit from this?
For the NCAA, it would create a better brand of basketball. Too many times the excuse of “I can’t constantly keep up with the new rotation of players every year” makes an appearance for non-NCAA fans.
Instituting this two year rule would instigate a somewhat constant scenery, allowing fans to have a better understanding of who’s on the court, making the collegiate game more appealing to basketball supporters, and in turn, generating more revenue.
It’s a rarity to see an upperclassman lead his team on a huge run come tournament time. Unfortunately, the days of senior night appear to be on its final frontier. The two year delay will allow these young men to polish their game at a better rate than before, creating better opportunities to showcase their talents. For the academics first supporters, this rule would also help players get one step closer to completing their degree, which in hindsight will help them for life after basketball.
As for the NBA, the association would be receiving a trimmer, seasoned group of players to select from. Scouting reports for players will be deeper than ever before, allowing teams to have a better understanding of the prospect before selecting them. These prospects are more pro-ready and more viable to lead at a young age, which appears to be a problem in the young draft classes currently being produced. In turn, the NBA would turn into an overall more competitive league, which is a win-win for both executives and fans.
While this change may not take place for another year or two due to NCAA guidelines and NBA player association agreements, the future of the game can be ensured in better hands by instituting some type of age limit/year rule for draft eligible players.
Not only will both the NBA and the NCAA benefit from this change, fans will reap the most benefit of all: A better game of basketball.