No More High School Players in the Pro Game

EMIN AVAKIAN
El Vaquero Sports Editor

Nobody under the age of 20 should be able to play in the National Basketball Association.

Sounds cruel, but the benefits outweigh the disadvantages by a mile.
Commissioner David Stern will do everything he can to put an age limit in the next collective bargaining agreement this off season when the NBA’s seven-year labor agreement expires. The union originally opposed raising the current age limit of 18, but has begun to waver.

“We are seeking to raise that to 20 or two years out of high school. The NFL’s [National Football League] minimum age is three years after high school. I’m optimistic the union will agree to some raise in the minimum age in the current collective bargaining,” Stern said in a recent ESPN.com chat.

This writer agrees with Stern, but others, most notably Indiana Pacers center Jermaine O’Neal, have taken the other side of the issue.

In the last two or three years, the rookie of the year has been a high school player,” O’Neal said. “There were seven high school players in the All-Star Game, so why we even talking an age limit?”

Well, O’Neal is missing the point here. The seven high school players in the all-star game that he is talking about are Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Amare Stoudemire, Tracy McGrady, and himself.

Of the seven all-stars, four of them did not become superstars in the NBA right out of the gates. Bryant played very limited minutes with the Lakers in 1996. Garnett was a scrawny player and not the dominant Most Valuable Player he is today. All McGrady did was help Vince Carter win the slam dunk competition. And O’Neal didn’t blossom into the star he is today until he was dealt to the Pacers during the 2000 off-season.
He makes a good point when he says that Stoudemire and James were the rookies of the year in the last two years. But, the two players are just two exceptions.

His argument can easily be countered with the Trevor Ariza, Andris Biedrins, Shaun Livingston, Darko Milicic, Peter John Ramos, Ha Seung Jin and Sebastian Telfair arguments. All of the afore mentioned are under 20, and to put it nicely, are benchwarmers. Of the seven players, Telfair has been most “productive” with 6.1 points per game. Players coming into the league after gaining experience at the college level fare much better than players who jump into the professional game straight out of high school.

The best example is Tim Duncan, who didn’t make himself eligible for the NBA draft until his career at Wake Forest was finished. Duncan is one of the best players in the league.

He won a championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 2003, was named finals MVP in 1999 and 2003, is a two-time most valuable player, and has been named first team all NBA all six seasons he has been in the league, the only player to do since Larry Bird.

Obviously, not every player who plays at the university level does great in the NBA, but their chances sure are greater than the players coming straight out of high school.

O’Neal proceeds with his comments, and hints that race might have something to do with the age limit proposal.

“As a black guy, you kind of think race is the reason why it’s coming up,” O’Neal said.

Race is not the reason why Stern wants an age limit on the NBA. The league is 70 percent African-American players, and Stern is not out of his mind.

The real reason why he wants an age limit is because too many players who are not good enough for the NBA are jumping straight into the professional game and many of them do not have enough education to take other routes. The age limit will allow these players to go to school, and then proceed to do what they love doing.

Which side has the better argument is not the question. The question is which side will speak up louder than the other this off-season.