By Dennis Berry
We are little over a week into the NBA lockout and it appears both sides are ready for a long fight over the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Between player contracts, the salary cap, and revenue sharing there is a lot that has to be agreed upon. There is one part of the new CBA that will affect the NBA and college basketball: the age limit.
With a new CBA being negotiated it seems that both sides would like to see the age limit changed. The Players Union wants the age limit to be reduced back to 18. From reports it appears that the NBA wants to keep the age limit in place, and perhaps make the age limit 20 years old.
In 2005 the league added to the CBA the rule that players had to be 19 before they were able to enter the NBA. This was brought on after the rise of high school players skipping college basketball and going straight to the NBA. The league felt it had to do something to prevent giving out big contracts to players who were not mature on and off the court.
It seems the NBA made the right decision. The league enjoyed perhaps its best season since the Michael Jordan era. The playoffs were the best they have been in a long time. Ratings for the Finals between Dallas and Miami were the highest since 2004. The NBA has a lot of great, young talent on the basketball court; which means there is good basketball to watch.
One can look at that and say that the age limit has had a positive effect on the league. It also shows that perhaps the NBA and Players Union should raise the age limit to 20 years old.
Why would this be good for the Players Union? Will it help protect current players' jobs? With a higher age limit, there will be less young players coming into the league. There are only 15 players on a roster of 30 teams; you only have a limited number of job opportunities. That will help older players from losing roster spots to younger players. With an average career four to five years for most players; you would think they would try to keep their jobs a long as they can.
For the NBA it would be good because you get better product on the floor. If players are allowed to develop their game in college for a couple of seasons, they will be better once they get into the NBA. Not only will they be able to develop their game more, but they also get a chance to mature as a person and see what it is like to have responsibilities to take care of with school.
It is hard for most 18 year olds to handle responsibility once they get to college. What do you expect to happen with an 18 year old who has just signed a huge contract? Most 18 year olds do not manage money all that well to begin with. They also get used to what it is like to travel on the road. Not only traveling, but what it is like to play in tournaments and the pressure that comes with it?
There have been players who have made the jump to the NBA from high school and have had success. Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Amare Stoudemire, Dwight Howard and LeBron James come to mind. Those players were talented enough not to need college basketball to develop them for the NBA. Even some international players like Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki were able to have success without college basketball, although the player's training system is different in other countries than the United States.
For each of those players who enjoy success out of high school there are those that do not. Players like Kwame Brown (1st overall pick, 2001), Leon Smith (29th pick, 1999), Korleone Young (40th pick, 1998) or Darko Milicic (2nd pick, 2003) did not live up to the hype. They could have used more time to prepare for the NBA.
It also has a positive effect on college basketball and the players.
For college basketball, you will have the best young talent in the country. The one thing that the NBA age limit did was bring some star power back to college basketball. By increasing the age limit to 20 means that you do away with the one and dones. This will help college basketball because the more talent there is, the better the game will be. Who knows, maybe after a couple of years in college, some players may stick around for another year or two.
For players it not only means growing as a player and a person, but they have a chance to get a free education. For those that gripe that players do not receive anything for playing college basketball, that is simply false. They receive a free education; it is up to them if they want to take advantage of that. With such a short average career life in the NBA, players should take advantage of that free education to prepare them for something after they no longer play basketball.
Some people like to say that it is unfair to keep players from going straight from high school to the NBA. Why should they be forced to go to college? Why does this only happen with basketball. You never hear the same complaint about football, in which a player has to be out of high school three years before they can enter the NFL.
An age limit would be best for all parties involved. It's good for the players union, NBA & NCAA, and the players themselves.
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