"In the last two or three years, the rookie of the year has been a high school player. There were seven high school players in the All-Star Game, so why we even talking an age limit? As a black guy, you kind of think [race is] the reason why it's coming up. You don't hear about it in baseball or hockey. To say you have to be 20, 21 to get in the league, it's unconstitutional. If I can go to the U.S. Army and fight the war at 18 why can't you play basketball for 48 minutes?" -Jermaine O'Neal
This is the current hot button topic in the NBA. Should there be an age limit in the NBA? The NFL has one. MLB and the NHL don't. Freddy Adu signed with the MLS as a 14-year old. Tennis players begin their careers very young. So why not NBA players? Here is my take on the whole thing.....
*WOULD I SUPPORT A 20 YR OLD AGE LIMIT? No. I find it pointless. I agree with O’Neal here. If you can vote and fight in a war...why can’t you play basketball?? Furthermore...if an NBA team is willing to offer you a job, then why shouldn’t they be allowed? It doesn’t fly. The future and the present of the NBA is made up of these high school kids. Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Amare Stoudamire and Jermaine O’Neal are the superstars of this league...and they all came out as teenagers.
*BUT DON’T THESE GUYS NEED SOME SEASONING? Well, of course. Who doesn’t? It is very rare to find anyone in any sport that waltzes in and runs things. Yeah, guys like Shaq and LeBron make huge impacts off the bat...but they still had things to learn on the fly. My point here is, there are 4-year collegians who also need some seasoning. Ever hear of Michael Olowokandi?? I?ll dive into this a little later.
*BUT, REALLY, DO TEENAGERS NEED TO BE IN THE NBA? Yes. The last two Rookie Of The Year winners were straight out of high school. No, not all of them are ready to contribute when the set foot in the league. But neither are every European, college player or most rookies. But you cannot tell me that LeBron James or Amare Stoudamire weren?t ready to be NBA players.
*IS RACISM INVOLVED HERE? No. That point is absurd. In fact, the poster child for having an age limit is Darko Milicic, who is white. He came in too inexperienced that he?s deemed useless by the mighty Pistons right now. Robert Swift is a white high school NBA player.
*BUT THE NHL AND MLB DON?T WORRY ABOUT AGE LIMITS!! They also have minor league systems...something the NBA doesn?t have. The NBDL is not a farm system. They are all free agents fighting for jobs. When you get drafted by those leagues, you almost automatically go straight to the minor leagues. The NBA doesn?t have that.
*BUT THE NFL HAS AN AGE LIMIT..... True. But the NFL is a totally different beast. The NFL has a huge threat of physical harm to it. And almost all teenagers just don?t have the physical makeup to last long in that league.
*SO WHAT IS THIS ALL ABOUT? I think there are two layers to this. First off, I agree that there are too many guys absorbed into the NBA that don?t truly know how to play. I mean, we all know of the successes...but there are many failures as well. The NBA is not, nor should they be, teaching guys how to play. If youare on an NBA roster, you should already have the necessary skills to play. It also is about perception. Like it or not, the NBA is here for entertainment. And the product has looked bad at times...though it seems to be getting better. But many see the eroding skills as both "attitude based" and just and eye-sore to watch. It is like having a math class in high school with students with varying math abilities. It is too hard for the remedial students...and the fact they need more time holds back the advanced students. It kind of applies here.
*SHOULD ALL PLAYERS PLAY COLLEGE BALL FIRST? No. College isn?t for everyone. And if a guy like LeBron James is good enough to play in the NBA at 18...then what is the point of him going to college? I mean, other students going to that institution are basically paying for him to hang out there for a few years. Not to mention that the fact the NBA is saying they cannot earn their living...but the NCAA can earn major cheese off of these guys is downright crap.
*ALRIGHT, SPORTZ, THEN HOW DO WE SOLVE THIS? I think the ultimate way to get this settled is developing the NBDL into a farm league. Have teams invest players into the league. Expand the league to 15 teams...and have each NBDL team run by two franchises. Expand the NBA rosters to 16 players. Only 12 are on the NBA club...and the other 4 are "delegated" to the NBDL. Now, if the NBA team suffers from an injury...then you can "call up" your NBDL player. Right now, teams hide players on the injured reserve list for use when they really have an injured player. Instead of using this practice, it will allow these guys to get playing time in the NBDL and develop their games.
Joe Forte is in the NBDL after playing at North Carolina and the NBA's Sonics
*WHO CAN GET DELEGATED TO THE NBDL? Anyone who is still under their rookie contract...or has less than 5 years NBA service. No player who has been under contract with an NBA team longer than 4 years can be demoted to the NBDL. A veteran who signed with a provision that he can be placed in the NBDL can end up there.
*WHERE WILL THESE NBDL TEAMS BE PLACED? Mainly in the southeast and southwest. Warm weather. Put the teams in towns that don?t really have big-time hoops action. Asheville, NC is good.....Durham, NC [home to Duke] is bad. Right now there are teams in Asheville, Columbus, Fayetteville, Florida, Huntsville and Roanoke.....with teams coming in Albuquerque, Austin, Forth Worth and Tulsa.
*IS THERE A CHANCE THAT THERE WILL BE THE 20 YR OLD AGE LIMIT? A very good chance. First off, it won?t effect anyone in the league....since they are already in the NBA. It actually may help some of them keep their jobs. It will ultimately help the NBA?s product...since they will be inserting players with some "professional" coaching into the league. It will also mean they will be inserting names people know. I?d be willing to bet that not many people heard of Dwight Howard until he was drafted #1 overall this past draft. But many heard of Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson and others as they came into the league. Not to mention, that this one swoop will be a lot cheaper for the NBA that beginning and keeping tides on a minor league.
*CAN THE NBA DO THIS?? Yes. They are a private league that constructs it?s membership. They also have a players union...and whatever collective bargaining agreement they come to is perfectly fine. There may be someone that will try to sue the NBA....but the courts did side with the NFL against Maurice Clarett involving the same issue.
*BUT THIS KEEPS BASKETBALL PLAYERS FROM EARNING A LIVING! No it doesn?t. The NBA can argue that they aren?t a monopoly and that they aren?t shutting down a player?s option to earn a living playing basketball. You can go to the CBA, the USBL or overseas and play. You can earn a living playing basketball and not be in the NBA. Just not that multimillionaire living wanted.