Adam Silver, who has not yet completed a full year as commissioner of the National Basketball Association, wants to make a big change in the NBA draft.
After failing to get enough votes to change the draft lottery to put a kibosh on teams tanking for better draft position, Silver has discussed with the Board of Governors changing the league rule for eligible players to those who are a minimum of 20 years old.
Currently, the NBA rule states that all drafted players must be 19 years old during the calendar year of the draft.
There is merit to Silver’s idea. There have been dozens, perhaps hundreds, of basketball players who have entered the draft as soon as they were eligible, most after one year of college, and who have flamed out, either by failing to make the team that drafted them or failing to catch on with any team if they do not get drafted.
Forcing basketball players to wait until they are 20 will make them more mature when they enter the high-pressure, gold standard lifestyle of the NBA. Most will have gone through two years of college, and enjoyed the benefits of that maturation cycle.
The question that comes up, however, is “Would players have to spend two years in college before entering the NBA?” For those who want to attend college, the answer is yes.
But the NBA is also sponsor of its developmental league, which is exactly that, and can serve as a training ground for young players who need polishing or don’t want to be bothered with that one year of college life (which has been shown to be bogus for many athletes who don’t take their student responsibilities seriously, or are not asked to).
Such draft rules are often cited as illegal because they prohibit people from making a living based solely on age, but the league and the Players Association hammer out those details in collective bargaining negotiations.
It’s a conundrum. There does not appear to be a correct answer as to when athletes are ready to go pro from a maturity standpoint.
The four major sports in the United States have widely varied rules regarding eligibility of young athletes. Baseball, for instance, will let players in if they have completed high school, but if they decide to attend a four-year school, they must complete their junior year before being eligible.
I could live with that as an NBA rule. Play minor league basketball once you get out of college just as baseball players do, or go to college for a minimum of three years. Here are the official eligibility rules of the four sports:
NBA-All drafted players must be at least 19 years old during the calendar year of the draft. Any player who is not an international player must be at least one year removed from the graduation of his high school class. Both rules must be met.
Major League Baseball-High school players, if they have graduated from high school and have not attended college or junior college, college players from four-year colleges who have completed their junior or senior years or are at least 21 years old, and junior college players regardless of how many years of school they have completed.
National Football League-Players that have been out of high school for at least three years are eligible.
National Hockey League-All players who will be 18 years old on or before September 15 and not older than 20 years old before December 31 of the draft year are eligible. Also, non-North American players over the age of 20 are eligible.
I do not know if there is a correct answer about eligibility for professional sports. I know I hate the current state of college basketball because so many players are in school for only one year, and it is impossible to get to know a team when the players change so rapidly.
I do wish my children had been talented enough in a sport where I had to concern myself with these sorts of things, however.