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NBA + Age Limit = Good For Basketball

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Last year, most basketball talk involved how good LeBron James of the Cleveland Caveliers was. This year, it is how amazing LeBron James is. What separates LeBron from the rest of the National Basketball Association superstars is that LeBron is only 20 years old and entered the NBA straight out of high school. Not many players in all of sports (except tennis and golf) can say that some of their elite players are mere teenagers.

This all might change for basketball when the next collective bargaining agreement between the players union and the owners ends after this season, and a new one is negotiated. NBA commissioner David Stern has asked for an age limit of 20 for players wishing to enter the NBA.

This has been a contested issue involving the NBA in recent years. It shouldn’t seem like such a big deal, but some players object to it. Indiana Pacers center Jermaine O’Neal disagreed with such a move.

O’Neal sees baseball and hockey as examples where age limits don’t exist and players, no matter how young they are, can play as long as they have the ability to play professionally. The real question is, how popular is college baseball and college hockey compared to college basketball and college football? I don’t think O’Neal understands that some colleges exist around on either their basketball or football programs, and less on baseball and hockey. And the only reason that the college hockey championships are being shown on ESPN2 is because the NHL’s season was cancelled!

But O’Neal can hardly sound objective because players, as part of the players union, only look out for themselves. If 19-year-olds can play in the NBA, why can’t they?

They can’t because they don’t have the experience to survive at such a high level. Jumping from high school players to professional NBA players is hard. Being able to dunk on teenagers half your size isn’t the same as being able to dunk on adults twice your size.

They can’t because they don’t have the maturity to survive at such a high level. The real reason that players want to jump from high school to the NBA is because they can earn money playing basketball instead of playing for a college education. It’s very tempting to have so much money at such a young age, but the truth is that most people aren’t mature to handle the responsibilities with money and fame. Sure, many of the top choices in recent NBA drafts were out of high school, but how many were really ready?

They can’t because it would hurt the college game. College rivalries are just as fierce as your Yankee-Red Sox and 49ers-Cowboys rivalry. March Madness is treated with similar devotion as the MLB or NFL playoffs. It might seem refreshing to see colleges other than Duke and North Carolina play for the national championship, but how exciting would it be?

Having great basketball players helps the game of basketball on every level. If every highly touted prospect went to the NBA, how competitive or exciting would the college game be? Would we ever have a classic match-up between Larry Byrd and Magic Johnson whose rivalry transcended college and into the NBA? The sport as a whole benefits from the exposure of great play. If LeBron really wanted to be like Mike, LeBron would have went to college like Jordan did instead of just wearing his number.

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About Tan The Man

A proud dork and loser, Tan The Man writes mostly about film and music, and has previously covered the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, South By Southwest and WonderCon.
  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    I have no idea what you based your opinions on because you don’t have any facts to back up your statements. No one forced the owners to pick these young players. The NBA is trying to save itself from itself because it doesn’t want to have to pay these players for so long because coming in at such a young age extends their prime. Also the older players are trying to save their jobs. It’s all about economics.

    As far as some of the things you’ve written I have many questions.

    “The real question is, how popular is college baseball and college hockey compared to college basketball and college football?”

    What does that have to do with men under twenty being allowed to play in the NBA? If you reason that the NBA is to hard for these young men, maybe we shouldn’t let 18- and 19-year-olds join the military because I have a hunch that’s tougher than the NBA.

    “And the only reason that the college hockey championships are being shown on ESPN2 is because the NHL’s season was cancelled!”

    This is wildly inaccurate and completely untrue. How do explain the previous years that the Frozen Four appeared on ESPN2? I have watched the games last year and the year before when the NHL was in full swing, so what do you base this statement on?

    How has the college game been hurt? There were many exciting games this year. Did you not see the regional finals of Illnois v Arizona or Louisville v West Virginia or Mich St v Kentucky, all three of which were overtime games.

    Fans keep tuning in. The ratings were up 36 percent over last year’s championship game according to Mediaweek.com. They also go on to say “that 141.7 million viewers watched all or part of the three week tournament telecasts, the largest number since 153.7 million viewers in 1998.”

    New teams are on the rise, bringing in new fans and giving hope to other schools that they may make it in. Rivalries have to begin somewhere and if think a 49ers v Cowboys game means the same as it used to in the ’80s or ’90s, I have to seriously question your sports knowledge. I have friends who are fans of both teams and they don’t even care much for teams much anymore.

    I’ll leave the Constitution out of this for now, but please give me some actual facts as to why there should be an age limit because I fail to see your point.

  • http://spaces.msn.com/members/dorksandlosers Tan Hoang

    Well, the money is one issue. Your point is taken, but (this might be hurting my stance on the issue of an age limit) the hype with the younger players like LeBron and Carmelo have increased merchandise like jerseys, which is very profitable and probably helps to offset the salaries. There are limits to how much rookies and non-veteran players can make their first few years, and I think that NBA contracts might start looking like MLB contracts with fewer years (although who wouldn’t want to lock in 23 year olds for 5-7 years?).

    About the comment on the military, I’m sure the training that cadets and other trainees is a lot harder and more intense than that of sports. Let’s please keep in perspective the significance of playing basketball with a jersey and shoes than patroling Iraq with 60+ lbs of equipment in 90 degree heat.

    I know my comment about the college hockey championship is inaccurate. I was exaggerating to help clarify what I thought inaccurate about O’Neal’s comment on trying to compare basketball with hockey. O’Neal said that hockey players can have anyone play professionally just as long as they can, no matter the age. My idea was that because the college hockey program isn’t nearly as popular as the college basketball program, so it doesn’t matter if top amateur hockey prospects skip college altogether and go straight into the NHL. I know that ESPN shows the championship even in non-lockout hockey seasons, but I think what I wanted was to help boast that idea of the disparity in popularity between basketball and hockey. I probably could have clarified that more, but I didn’t want to go too far the topic.

    I’m sure college basketball will still be popular if top prospects skipped college and went straight to the NBA. But wouldn’t it be more exciting for these guys to play the college game and hopefully build player rivalries? I think that’s one thing that people would like to see more of. Sure college team rivalries are there, but I think it would be more exciting to see these players stand out more and get more recognition.

    I had to bring in the 49er-Cowboy rivalry because I’m a 49er fan, and somehow I felt that I needed to mention that early 90’s rivalry. (So in that regard I failed in my mission to stay on topic)

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    College basketball is really nothing more than a minor league for NBA teams. What difference does it make if players “go to college” for 2 years and then enter the NBA or skip college altogether? Noboby is arguing for a minimum age of 22, which would enable most players to finish college and get a degree, preferably in business so they’ll know how to handle all that money they’ll get in the NBA.

    Plus, young players aren’t responsible for helping the college game survive. What do they owe the college game and why? They’re responsible to themselves and to turn pro as soon as they can so they can start earning money.

    Why should LeBron James have had to play in college for two years, when all he had to gain was a potentially career-ending injury there? He came into the NBA and immediately played very, very well.

    I really don’t understand why the NBA wants a minimum age, but El Bicho’s comments make a lot of sense to me.

  • SFC SKI

    You’re right bhw, but for the wrong resons when you call college ball minor league for the NBA.
    College ball will get a player involved in a TEAM sport in away HS/street playing doesn’t.
    I can’t say that the reasoning behind the age cap is really legitimate. If a ball player has the talent to turn pro early, he should be allowed to. It is not necessarily the best idea in the long term, but it should still be the player’s choice. It would be up to the team if they want to pick up a younger player like that, if the demand were not there, the teams wouldn’t be recruiting out of HS.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    I hear you, SKI, but most other professional sports have a legitimate minor leage system. The NBA doesn’t. College is the defacto minor league for the NBA, even though most college players never make it there.

    Maybe the NBA should establish a real minor league, so that players who really don’t care about going to college can just stop pretending that they’re “student athletes” and just play and practice basketball to their hearts’ content, without any NCAA regulations to follow, such as not being able to earn a salary or hire an agent or get endorsement deals.

  • http://www.bhwblog.com bhw

    I need to correct myself. The NFL doesn’t have a minor league, either.

  • joe

    your way off with everything you said.collge ball is doing fine now,your acting like theres already an age limit,like it will hurt college ball,theres no age limit now and march madness this year was one of the most exciting years.who is the nba to deny that player entry i mean wat if there is the next star in high school no sayin that college ball dosent have stars but no one tells these teams who to pick it jsut broadens there options.if the hs player cant make it in the nba then he wont get picked but i sure know lebron is doing the dunking of these players twice the size of him.the military comment is a great way to put it.college ball is more popualr than hockey n base ball because it is and hockey been on for years.keving garnett lebron oneal stoudimere if ther out there go get them

  • roberta u

    I think that there is no reason at all for an age limit in basketball.The young players drafted at age 18 makes the NBA lots of money.Look at LeBron James and tell me it don’t. He makes a lot of money for a lot of people. I’am a teen from Detroit and I see a lot of my peers buying things just because it has LeBron name on it. Also these young players have increase ticket sells. Nobody knew of the Ceveland Cavaliers until LeBron came.Also people want to see what these players can do.

  • http://spaces.msn.com/members/dorksandlosers Tan Hoang

    I know LeBron isn’t the only player to have skipped college and entered the NBA out of high school. So please, let’s talk about other NBA players out of high school. There are other players and we’re not just talking about one man. Yes, he is talented enough to do so, and so is Amare Stoudemire. They could just be that talented enough to be able to succeed at such a young age. I think one of the other reasons that people are trying to protect these young “superstars” from getting too over their head with fame, success and especially money. We all know the unfortunate situations with young athletes like Darryl Strawberry, Jennifer Capriati and Doc Gooden who achieved success too early enough for them to be able to handle it. No one wants to see wasted talent.

  • Ante Allen

    I think players should go to college. My cousin Leon Smith got drafted but then fell off when he should have gone to college. Lebron is overated with hype. He is good but in till he wins championships he is no Jordan. Jordan got a championship in college and it will get any player to a new level.

  • http://ComingSoon Writer Roy

    Tan the Man, you hit the nail on the head.
    The NBA age limit has been imposed to improve the sport of basketball as a whole. The NBA has a host of stars that keep fans tuning in, Allen Iverson, Yao Ming, Shaq, and college basketball needs exciting players too.
    Andre Iguodala attended the University of Arizona for two amazing years, and I have to say that I’m not sure how happy Arizona fans would be with the Wildcat program if Coach Olsen hadn’t been able to recruit athletes like Iguodala over the years.
    The jump from high school to the NBA has grown in popularity recently. Now great high school athletes are making the decision to jump more often than ever, but not all of them are making it. High school athletes who attempt the jump and aren’t drafted, forfeit their college basketball career. This is no doubt as bad for the athlete as it is for basketball as a whole.
    Since the decision to jump from high school to the NBA has grown tremendously, the need for regulations to filter out potential problems has grown. The commissioner has made a great decision in imposing an age limit that will still allow spectacular athletes like the Lebron’s of the future jump to the NBA at a very young age. Not only that, but the player will have successfully proven to himself and the basketball world whether or not he is ready for the NBA. Instead of Iguodala type potential sitting on the NBA bench for two years, he will be creating a fan base in college.

  • http://www.dorksandlosers.com Tan The Man

    Same with Detriot’s Darko experiment.

  • Aaron M

    they shouldnt have an age limit for the NBA becuase look at Kobe Bryant , Jermaine O’Neal, and LeBron James they are amazing players in the NBA and they started in the NBA right after High School. So dont put an age limit that is really dumb!