Thursday, October 11, 2007

Basketball Links and a Rant about the NBA Age Limit

Two links from the TrueHoop blog:
  • Video of Wilt Chamberlain at 17 years old!
  • Damon Agnos argues that college players should make the jump as soon as they become a "consensus first-round pick" by pointing out that seriously injured NBA players are collecting enormous paychecks while seriously injured college players may never make it.

Let me take this moment to editorialize about the NBA's age limit. I think it stinks and should be repealed. It's unfairly discriminatory against kids who are ready for the league and is probably bad for the NBA as well. Why should the next Kobe Bryant or LeBron James have to play in college for a year, with no salary or endorsements and no guarantee of either if they get injured? Basically, the age limit allows the NBA to outsource their coaching of 17-year-olds to college coaches at no cost. The NBA benefits from this in those (frequent) circumstances when kids are drafted on potential but need a year to develop. The colleges obviously benefit. NCAA basketball fans benefit. Television networks benefit. Everybody benefits but the kid.

Don't talk to me about how important college is, either. If you feel that way, convince the NCAA to let NBA teams draft young players and give them guaranteed contracts while still allowing them to play in college. Convince them to allow college players to receive endorsement money. It's unconscionable to let these often impoverished kids risk their entire careers for no money and no guarantees.

Besides, some of those kids have no real business even going to college. Jason Kidd, for example, is an amazing basketball player, but had to take the SATs four times to meet the NCAA minimum combined score of (if I recall correctly) 700. And he went to Berkeley. It's not like these guys are necessarily learning anything (although some do.) The whole system is a scam.

The D-League is a step in the right direction, I suppose. But an average salary of $35,000 is a far cry from the two-year, $1 million plus guaranteed contract some of those same players would get if they were allowed to enter the NBA draft.


Comrade Kevin said...

I couldn't agree more. However, the true tragedy is that only a precious few athletes have the skills to make it to the NBA.

Many who end up leaving college early find themselves up a certain creek without a paddle and with no degree to back them up.

Still, let's stop pretending that student-athletes are scholarly. They're revenue producers. End of argument.

Ezzie said...

The point is not to hurt those great players, who will be fine in the long run, but to keep others from making a huge mistake by leaving college for some hoop dreams that are unrealistic. An extra year or two in college can help many of them realize that they're simply not going to make it.

G said...

There are two angles here:

On the legal/discriminatory/fairness front, it is wrong and should be eliminated.

On the what's best for the league front, it's exactly what was needed.

Damon said...

Thanks for the link! As for g's comment that the age limit is what's best for the league, I think only financially. Young players generally don't get playing time unless they're ready, and I find it hard to believe that there were so many not-ready kids occupying roster spots that the league's quality had declined, and that one more year of seasoning would make a difference. With the spread of the game across the world and the advances in international scouting, the talent pool is deeper than ever.

G said...

Correct, they don't get playing time unless they are ready. So while riding the pine they:
--take up a roster spot, and not a useless 11th or 12th man bec. they were supposed to be able to contribute.
--take up valuable salary cap space. This is no longer an issue due to the new rookie salary slotting which was part of the new rules the elague phased in.
--don't go to college where they could have developed. This ultimately depletes the leagues talent bec. the best potential is wasted leaving subpar talent on the court.

G said...

Watch an ESPN classic game from the late 80's or early 90's. It is astounding how quickly the level of play sank. Hopefully it will rebound just as quickly (although I doubt it).

Damon said...

It's utterly absurd to say that the level of play has sunk when, since that time, the league has begun bringing in talent from innumerable countries that weren't even on the scouting radar before. You may like the style of play better in the 80s, but that era is akin to baseball before integration. It's not that bad, but the current talent pool is way larger. Look at today's league and look at how many players are foreign born, compared to 15-20 years ago. In these last finals, there were, by my count, at least seven foreign-born key players between the two teams. Elite foreign talents are pushing out the mediocre domestic talents that used to fill lineups.

So yes, will making players spend another year in college improve the quality of NBA play? Perhaps there will be a small, barely perceptible difference. But it's not the case that, as you argued earlier, the league needs it--the league is deeper and more talented than it's ever been.

Finally, I'd ask, how many players each year were occupying a roster spot that they wouldn't have occupied if there'd been an age limit? How many 18-year-olds are killing a roster spot? (Keep in mind, they don't take up a roster spot if they're in the NBDL.) I imagine the number is fewer than ten every year. Probably fewer than five. So, it's really pretty absurd to say that they're dragging down the level of play.

Anonymous said...

This is a question that as a teacher I find myself eager to answer.

Why should Kobe Bryant have to play a year in college?!?!?!

It is not only his responsibility to play basketball to the best of his ability, but also to be a good role model for all children around the world. The same children that look up to these players and buy all the products they are trying to sell. Although I can understand "wasting" time spent playing college ball, think more wholelistically about the impact that these players have on children. By playing college ball for a year, it shows to so many children/students that they gave college a try. Although higher education may not be for everyone, I still think it should be given a chance.

Jewish Atheist said...

By playing college ball for a year, it shows to so many children/students that they gave college a try.

But it's crazy to "give college a try" when you have the opportunity to be given tens of millions of dollars to play pro basketball, especially if you come from a poor family (unlike Kobe, admittedly) and your window of opportunity is small and could end at any time with a serious injury. It's even crazier if you're honestly not smart enough for college (again, unlike Kobe.) How is being crazy being a good as some role model?

Nephtuli said...

I like your suggestion of allowing players to be drafted but still play in college, but I can't imagine the NCAA allowing it anytime soon. It is great for the NBA, however, to keep out underdeveloped players, especially when those players end up playing big minutes for bad teams, which keeps those teams bad. Allowing high school players to be drafted also requires teams to take big risks on talented youngsters without seeing if their talent can translate to playing basketball at even a college level.

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