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Sarah Hughs, Landon Donovan, and Venus Williams, are three of the most recognized athletes in their respective sport. These three athletes are proven champions and have the Olympic medals and championship trophies to prove it. However when one talks about these three athletes their age is rarely the topic of discussion. Each turned professional by their teens, and yet nobody complains about this fact. In leagues such as the NBA and NFL they frown upon high school graduates entering their league. Both leagues have this unwritten rule where eligibility to join the league starts after your sophomore year in college. Profound talent should not be held back; the question to “go pro” for a high school graduate should be decided upon by the athlete.
College is a great way of figuring out what you are and what you want to become. People who are against those who turn professional at an early age say that education should be a top of their list of priorities. “Education and college prepares you for a life outside of sports”, states a columnist from brainevent.com. I too am a firm believer in this, and I also believe that children should continue their education as long as possible. Getting educated helps better your life and molds you into a well rounded person.
Although College is a life changing experience it is not for everybody, and no one should be forced into attending it. Whether you choose to go to College, work, or enter the NBA should be up to you. As Americans, it is our right and freedom to be able to choose this. James Anderson from shoutoutsports.com points out that, “If a kid doesn’t want to go to college what purpose would it serve for him to go? Take a look at the football players who were running around for several years without even a 1.0 grade point average.” This quote basically states that athletes have a mindset of, “why am I here, when I can be making millions doing what I love?” Half the reason why colleges want you to attend their school is because they know you’re good. Colleges know that you’re going to turn professional eventually, and you’ll be a big star. Superstars have fans, and fans want to know everything about you; even what college you attended. In essence you are a star and so is the school that produced you.
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NBA stars such as Kobe Bryant (a player with three NBA championships), Kevin Garnet, Tracy McGrady, Jermaine O’neal and Moses Malone are the top players in their team (Moses Malone is now retired); all these players did not attend college and went straight to the NBA after high school. These athletes were immediate successes, and brought a “high fly” type of aura to a league that was strictly a game of “X’s and O’s” (strategies, such as a 1-2-2 offense/defense, high post offense, etc…). Each one of these players, with the exception of Moses Malone, is making obscene amounts of money (they combine for about 330 million dollars in base salary). It doesn’t stop there, each player has endorsement deals and these endorsement deals (as well as royalties) add to the million dollar contracts.
For a moment, let us pretend that the high school graduate turns down the million dollar contract and decides to attend college. He is given a scholarship to play basketball and he has committed to play for them for a minimum of two full seasons. The press is excited and Dick Vitale is pumped up for the athlete’s first game. Season starts, and the throughout the first ten games his team is undefeated. The athlete is living up to the hype, and there are talks of him getting the John Wooden Award (highest individual honor in NCAA basketball). Then all of a sudden he suffers a career ending injury in basketball practice, what now? In a blink of an eye the chances of him becoming a NBA star has been diminished. Not only that, his college scholarship will probably go down the drain as well. As one columnist from brainevent.com puts it, “In a flash everything is gone (…) By jumping to the pros at least the high school player gets paid for putting his body on the line night after night.” What a shame it is for that athlete to have to think, “what if”. What if I went right instead of left, what if I passed instead of shot, what if hadn’t gone to college and went straight to the NBA after high school!
“If you’re seventeen or eighteen years old, you can go to jail, you can join the military, you can fight for your country (…) Why not play basketball for money?”, says Kwame Brown (center for the Washington Wizards). Kwame made history in the 2001 NBA draft as he became the first high school graduate to ever have been selected as the first overall pick. Out of the top fifteen picks in the first round of the 2001 NBA draft, four picks were high school graduates. Plus whoever said that getting your education as you play basketball in the NBA is wrong or unethical? Shaquille O’neal and Vince Carter did it and many NBA stars are still doing it. So really athletes can have the best of both worlds; they can go to school and can compete in professional sports at the same time. However to some they might look at college as a big waste of time. As Kwame Brown puts it, “A lot of people say (college will help build your career), but sometimes those college degrees basketball players get anyway, they never use (…) so why not go make your money.” As I stated earlier, college is not for everybody.
Athletes should be able to take themselves as high as their talents can take them. If this means taking your talents to a professional league where it can be better challenged and more appreciated then so be it. These high school athletes’ skills are far greater than college level play. “In baseball they draft 16 year olds from the Dominican Republic (this is not even high school age!), (…) Hockey takes you right out of high school”, writes James Anderson from shoutoutsports.com. It boggles my mind as to why the NBA and NFL get the biggest hit for allowing high school graduates to enter their league. NBA commissioner David Stern states, “Look at tennis, golf, baseball and other sports and nobody talks about their age. Only for the NBA and NFL does it seem to be an issue.” Sports aside, ponder this scenario: What if a company told you how much they value your skills and offered you several million dollars to come work for them as soon as possible (this would mean to skip college), would you do it? Or would you decline their lucrative offer and attend college?
The ball’s in your court.
Anderson, James. “Should High School Athletes Go To The Pros Or College First” February 2, 2001. <http://www.shoutoutsports.com/Should%20High%20School%20Athletes%20Go %20To%20The%20Pros%20Or%20College%20First.htm>
“Head to Head From High School to the NBA: Great Move or Bad Pass” Brainevent.com http://www.brainevent.com/be/Sports/head_to_head/20010321/index_html
Nawrocki, Nolan. “College: Risk or Advantage?” June 21, 2001. <http://archive.basketballnews.com/content/archives/nba_2000/hstonba1_062101.asp>