Posted Friday, July 8, 7:00 p.m. The new NBA rule that goes into effect in 2006 requiring players entering the draft to be 19 and over and one year removed high school, highlighted in the June 28 Web posting “Before the Draft, A Day of Reflection & Relaxation,” protects young athletes from making foolish career decisions.
Since 2000, the draft has been inundated with talented high school athletes who are not mentally or physically ready for the pressure of professional basketball. These players chose the instant gratification of a multimillion dollar contract over the developmental benefits of collegiate education and the excitement of NCAA basketball.
While there are success stories, most notably LeBron James and Kevin Garnett, there have been an equal number of disappointments. For example, high school Center Kwame Brown, drafted in 2001 by former Wizards President Michael Jordan, was expected to reverse the franchise’s losing fortunes. Instead he has been a giant bust. In the Wizards’ 2004-2005 season, he had limited minutes coming off the bench and was suspended from the playoff roster for missing a practice during the first round of the Bulls-Wizards series. The Wizards won the series despite his absence. Kobe Bryant is another high school standout who has had a tumultuous, albeit extremely successful, NBA career. The media spent more time reporting on his strained relationship with former coaches and teammates than it has on his successful basketball career. He is arrogant, ungrateful, and unappreciative of his fame and fortune.
NCAA athletes bound for the NBA gain valuable experience on and off the court. They have up to four years of eligibility to polish their game without feeling the pressure of a multimillion dollar contract. When they are not playing basketball, they have the opportunity to get a world-class education (usually fully subsidized by scholarships) from an accredited state or private university. Of course, some players skip class or leave prior to graduation, but even a half-hearted college experience is better than none at all. While on campus, these athletes have to learn how to live on their own, balancing priorities and making decisions without the security of a hefty paycheck. That alone can be a humbling learning experience.
Historically, most NBA standouts went to college prior to their professional basketball career. The lengthy list includes highly respected individuals such as former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley, Earvin “Magic” Johnson Jr. and Julius “Dr. J.” Erving. Requiring draft prospects to attend college or wait a year prior to high school graduation before entering the NBA draft is the right thing to do. Top draft prospect Hakim Warrick, who played four years for Syracuse and won a national championship in 2003, said it best when he commented on the new rule: “I think it will help college and the NBA. (College) helped me a lot.”
-Marc Shaller, alumnus