This article is part of a series in celebration of a new, dynamic voice in Black America: the NUBIANO Exchange. Brace yourself for the NUBIANO experience.
by Carrie Cook
Of the 46 prep players who have been drafted since 1995, only one was white. Consequently, it is not hard to make a case that the age-restriction rule of the NBA specifically targets young black men. In the summer of 2006, the NBA and its players union established age restrictions prohibiting players from entering the draft before turning 19. After years of debate over the image of professional basketball, based upon the idea that these young athletes would be better served by attending at least one year of college, the league sold the public on the rule. While the age amendment will funnel the nation’s premier high school players into college basketball programs, many believe coaches assume great risk in signing players who are likely to stay around for one year, as they contemplate (and prepare for) the multi-million dollar contracts offered at the next level.
So where is the balance in this age restriction set forth by the NBA? If the graduation rates of black athletes are not experiencing dramatic increases, will a one year provision really make a difference? Further, why are the sports with significantly less blacks—hockey, baseball and golf—celebrating, with great enthusiasm, the swings that their 16,17, and 18 year-old professionals take? For members of the black community, the age restriction of the NBA is a tough pill to swallow. On one hand, regardless of getting a “free” education, you have the blatant coercion of a select few to partake in the college experience, even if the option was a remote consideration. On the other hand, you have coaches who will recruit these players, only to watch them leave—abandoning, perhaps temporarily, the promise of education.
NBA Commissioner David Stern has made reference that the age restriction and dress code changes are responses to appeals from the league’s fan base. While this may be true, in part, I would argue that the racial and cultural undertones shading the restrictions debate reflect a microcosm of the larger issue that our society is dealing with: hypocrisy. If these players were white, would anyone care?
"Coach K Crosses Over on Age Limits." Sports Media Review by Jonathan Weiler. 14 September 2006.
Pickering, Roy. "Too Young to Play in the NBA?" Suite101. 22 April 2005.
Smizik, Bob. NBA's Age Limit is Much Too Stern. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 9 May 2005.