We’ve talked a lot about “one and done” players and their effect on the college basketball landscape. Today I’d like to focus on what it means for the NBA.
Steve Kerr wrote an excellent article for Grantland this past week in support of a 20 year-old age limit in the NBA. I will briefly address some of his points, but I highly suggest you check it out.
In discussing a raised age limit, we must first realize there are significant legal complications that could prevent any such rule from taking effect (and the need for agreement from the players’ union on any decision). But for the sake of this discussion, let’s pretend those complications don’t exist; what we’re looking for is the best-case scenario for the sport, likely or not.
In Kerr’s article, he listed the following six reasons for raising the limit: Player maturity, financial costs, player development, marketing, sense of team, and mentoring. Two of these arguments- financial costs and marketing- make an economic case for NBA teams to desire a change. The other four address the need for young basketball players to grow up before turning professional. Kerr even mentions how one young teammate asked him on what day they would begin their Christmas break!
What Kerr’s experience speaks to (and what those of us who follow the sport can easily discern) is that NBA players, like all pro athletes and the human race in general, come in varying levels of maturity. For every Kevin Durant who comes into the league prepared mentally and emotionally, there is a Javale McGee doing stuff like this. And even 18 year-old KD wasn’t yet physically ready for the NBA game.
The profile of the typical young NBA star is a man who has been praised his whole life, achieved great fame at a young age, and now has more money than he knows what to do with. NBA teams treat these professional employees as adults, and expect them to know how to handle themselves. The truth is, the majority of 19 year-olds just are not ready for that type of responsibility.
The evidence is pretty overwhelming that players and teams alike would benefit from an older, more mature rookie class. I still believe that college can be the best place for this type of growth, and that the NCAA and NBA should work together to provide the best environment for their young stars. Because everyone (the players, teams, fans, society) wins when our role models are ready to embrace their roles.
(Writer’s note: Insurance policies and/or stipends for student-athletes would go a long way toward removing monetary motivation for young athletes to go pro early. I’ll be discussing these topics in a post next week.)