Early Entry into the NBA


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     Early entry into the NBA has become one of the hottest topics in basketball today. Every year, more and more high school and college basketball players are foregoing their remaining years of college or all of college in favor of entering the NBA draft. It all started twenty-seven years ago, in the year 1969, when Spencer Haywood from the University of Detroit was the first underclassmen to leave college early in favor of the NBA. He signed with Denver of the ABA, for 50,000 dollars, after his sophomore season, in hopes of becoming a professional superstar. However, this wasn’t Haywood’s main intention. Instead, Haywood’s family was miserably poor, with his mother supporting ten children on a salary of ten dollars per week. Haywood entered the NBA because he was the only one who could help his family while they were at rock bottom. Haywood’s decision was out of love for his family and was a moral and ethical decision. Yet, almost all the underclassmen entering the NBA draft are entering for what society classifies as morally wrong reasons.
     The trend has become money first and books second or never. Most of the young athletes entering the draft early are immature, because of their age, and are completely unprepared for the tremendous salaries they will possibly be receiving. When these youngster see the enormous amounts of money they can be making in professional basketball, it seems as though education and morals become a distant thought to them. Sitting through lectures and writing research papers is considered a waste of time to these young prospects. Education is stressed daily in today’s society, with academics normally being emphasized over athletics. Yet, with today’s growing trend of players leaving early, it seems as though academics mean nothing to these young phenoms. In the summer of 1995, Sports Illustrated interviewed nine highly touted high school seniors about their college intentions. Four of these players expected to leave after three years, four expected to skip town after two years, and only one planned on staying to get his degree. “As all of this young talent continues to skip through college and enter the NBA, the quality of both games will suffer immensely.”(Blum, 43) This trend will eventually threaten the talent level and integrity of both the college game and the pros. The NBA and the NCAA need to sit down to discuss possible solutions to the problem.

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Many possible solutions have been discussed yet they have not been acted upon. These solutions include, an age limit, college loans to top young prospects, and even paying college athletes. Placing an age limit of 21 on players entering the NBA is the best way and only way to stop this horrendous problem. There are three reasons why this age limit should be placed on players. They are, the players are not fully matured when entering physically and emotionally, there is a great chance for failure, and the quality of play has declined in both the NBA and college basketball.
     When these young players declare themselves eligible for the NBA, they can be as young as 18 years of age. These young men are not yet mature enough to handle the NBA lifestyle. The NBA is a fast life of hotels, alcohol, drugs and women. This lifestyle involves making millions of dollars, constantly traveling across the U.S. to play games, and having constant influences of sex and drugs. Most of these young players come from nothing, living in low or sometimes middle class communities. They aren’t used to having hundreds or even thousands of dollars in their pockets at all times. This is where many athletes get into trouble. Most of them spend their money on material possessions such as $100,000 cars, enormous estates, hi-tech electronics and partying. They don’t think about investing their money or invest poorly, and when they are done playing basketball and stop making millions of dollars they no longer have any wealth or a college degree. These are the kinds of people who go on to drift through life without any motivation and sit around waiting for the next welfare check to come, which is taken straight out of taxpayers’ money. This is why players need to go through college programs, which serve as a developmental system. Cedric Dempsey, executive director of the NBA, said, “College programs have served as a developmental system, and I don’t mean only physical development. There’s a social and emotional development too.”(Klein, 7)
     Secondly, when young athletes declare themselves eligible for the draft, there is no guarantee that they will in fact be drafted. Only forty-five percent of all the early entrants from 1990 till the present have been selected in the draft. That means that the other 55 percent never made it to the NBA and rarely is there a case in which the player goes back to college. The NBA has a rule in which if a player hires an agent they are not eligible to re-enter the college game. But, it is almost a necessity for these players to hire an agent so that the agent can negotiate with teams and increase its client’s status in the draft. This is why entering the NBA draft is a large risk and one that should be taken very seriously because these young men normally don’t have many other skills or talents other than basketball.
     There isn’t one quick solution that exists to this problem of early entry into the NBA. The NBA and the NCAA need to sit down and hammer out a deal where each side takes some responsibility and each side reaps the benefits. “The number one way to stop this trend of “Early Entrants” is for the NBA to institute an age limit of 21 years of age.”(Bradley, 33) With an age limit of 21 and providing loans to those athletes who qualify for financial aid, the NBA will then have more experienced players who went through college and the college game will be much more interesting and exciting.


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