During the past year, there’s been lots of chatter surrounding the “one-and-done” rule in college basketball, mostly in favor of getting rid of the rule altogether. Even NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has spoken out against one-and-done, but I’m telling you right now — it shouldn’t change.
In 2005, the eligibility requirements for the NBA draft were adjusted in time for the 2006 draft so that players straight out of high school could no longer forgo college and enter the professional ranks. As it stands now, players must be one year out of high school or 19 years old to enter.
A released memo by the NBA states that the rule could be changed as early as 2021, but there are larger implications to consider that affect the NCAA and the players themselves.
Above all else, it’s clear that everyone in the basketball world prioritizes the development of the players. That should definitely be the case, but they seem to be dismissing one of the greatest pieces of that development puzzle — the college game.
Does the NBA care about the pipeline it’s created with the NCAA? It might selfishly care more about its own profit. But when it becomes time to actually sit down and come to a consensus, ultimately, the smarter long-term business decision would be to (in an unofficial way) continue to work with the college game in order to maximize both the NBA’s and the NCAA’s profits.
For players, the college game provides an unparalleled opportunity for players to face the best competition and tremendously improve their respective games. To be coached by some of the best minds in the sport such as Mike Krzyzewski, John Calipari, Roy Williams and so many others is invaluable and a proven path to success.
We also forget there’s a reason why one-and-done exists in the first place. NBA teams were dealing with many cases in which players straight of high school got drafted and flopped on the bigger stage.
NBA scouts and coaches know there’s a greater risk when selecting younger players right out of high school. Although athletes today are stronger and more skilled than ever, the transition to the NBA is still a huge leap that carries many unexpected variables along with it.
Therefore, the college game serves as a key test in which players can prove to NBA coaches and scouts that they are physically ready for the professional game.
There’s also the mental portion. Aside from athletics, college (even if just for one year) is such a transformative period of life for young people. The maturity that these athletes gain by living on their own and being away from home is such an important experience in order to fully transition to adulthood.
On a broader scale, the NBA needs to consider some of the greater political and cultural impacts it would have on its fan base. So many young kids look up to NBA superstars as role models. By eliminating college from the equation, the NBA would be sending a message to America’s youth that education is not important.
To avoid major fallout with the NCAA and to maintain a high level of competition across the league, the NBA has a lot to consider. Given the timeline the NBA has already announced, the clock is ticking, too.
If any change is going to occur, it’s going to have to be propelled by a huge catalyst. A major headline by a young superstar in the sport could provide the needed push, but if LaMelo Ball, who tried to play professionally in Europe to bypass the college ranks, wasn’t able to achieve that feat, then who will?
Without a doubt, any change would kick-start a monumental shift within college athletics. Coupled with the many conversations about NCAA athletes receiving compensation, allowing high school players to directly enter the NBA would heat up debate on that topic, as well.
Again, with so many other factors to consider, this equation isn’t as simple as it’s let on to be. Continuing to promote the college game and college itself shouldn’t be viewed as a negative proposition. Yes, players are leaving after just one year, but it’s an important step for them to take. It is in the best interest of the NBA and the players to keep the rule as is.
Charlie Griffen writes the Tuesday sports column about the evolution and current trends of college athletics. Contact him at [email protected].