Let 'Em Play: Why The NBA Rule Makes Sense

John MartinCorrespondent IJune 5, 2009

ORLANDO, FL - MAY 30: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks on during introductions against the Orlando Magic in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2009 Playoffs at Amway Arena on May 30, 2009 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

(Preface - It's obviously been a while since I've concocted a B/R piece; I've been EXTREMELY busy, but I haven't forgotten about you, Bleacher Creatures. TigerSportsReport.com (where Leroy Watson is the managing editor) has really absorbed most of my time, as I'm trying to bolster my resume for future opportunities! However, I'm back, and I think I've finally stumbled upon the ideal subject. By the way, I want to congratulate my good friend, mentor, and boss, Leroy Watson, on becoming a Senior Writer here at Bleacher Report. I'm around him quite a bit, and he really puts his heart into this stuff. Congratulations, man.)

This piece was inspired by Steve Cohen, a Representative of my native state, Tennessee. He sent a letter to David Stern about barring the entrance of 19-year-olds into the NBA.

Sorry Steve, but that letter's goin' straight to the can.

LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Amare Stoudamire, Kevin Garnett, Andrew Bynum, Dwight Howard, and Josh Smith.

All seven of those fellas have two things in common.

For one, they're all insanely talented.

And two, not a foot between the seven of them has ever touched the foundation of a college campus.

And I just conjured these names up without any kind of further research. I know there are plenty more, and I know I'm probably missing a few big names, but you'll forgive me. Names are beside the point.

In a day and age where a bachelor's degree doesn't necessarily guarantee you a worry-free lifestyle, these fellas don't even have so much as a community college credit. And they're making more money than they'll ever physically see.

And this makes the people that aren't blessed with these uncanny skills, who DO have to work their fingers to the bone marrow to stumble upon the amount of money necessary to fund a college education kind of, well, mad.

But this should come as no revelation to anyone reading this. That's simply the game of life. Some people get lucky (although it always seems to be everybody else except us ourselves).

I'm drifting away from my main point, though. The men who make the transition from St. Mary's, Lower Merion High School, Farragut, or Oak Hill Academy to the National Basketball Association were enabled to do that because, well, they could.

At least, until 2005.

It's not like he was complaining, but David Stern FINALLY put his foot down.

I can see it now; David Stern and his lackeys engulf a round table with smiles the length of the equator.

"The buck is stopping HERE, gentlemen! I've heard ENOUGH! The calls, the e-mails, the text messages, even the occasional letter in the mail; I've reached a decision. No longer can a kid come straight from high school to our beautiful organization, guys!"

Stern's cronies are now all collectively sharing the classic, perplexed "deer-in-headlights" look.

"Coming into the NBA at 18-years-old? UNPRECEDENTED. We're raising the minimum age to -- get this, guys -- 19!!! 19!!!!"

One sidekick mustered up the courage to pipe up.

"Um, Dave, uh, heh, your Sternness, do you understand that means they've gotta' sit out a year before they can get here? I don't know too many 19-year-old seniors..."

"Of COURSE you don't! That's the point! This way, we appease the millions of people who second-guess my league and its ethics, AND the NCAA by allowing them at the very least a year with MY worldly talent! We all win this way, don't you see?!"

Of COURSE they saw it. But, as per the norm, the "millions of people who second-guess Stern's league and its ethics" (ahem, college athletics supporters) didn't see it that way.

Most college basketball fans see the rule as pointless and ridiculous.

My mom, who is particularly staunch on her stances, thinks that all the rule does is legally, in fine print, ask for scandals and NCAA violations.

The most prominent argument is that the 19-or-1-year rule thrusts players into places they don't want to be; in particular, college.


When I navigate message boards that deal with this touchy topic, the overwhelming thesis sounds like this:

"I don't want somebody at my school who doesn't wanna' be there."

Scenario: If your school just signed a player that was good enough to go pro without even thinking about the possibility of college, and the next season (that player's only one) the particular player delivers "your" school a National Championship, are you willing to then continue your protest against the rule that pretty much just delivered "your" school a championship?

I think not.

While I would LOVE for kids to put their education first, and to get their degrees just to ensure their future because you really DON'T know what can happen, it's just a simply unrealistic notion to consider when millions of dollars are being waved in their faces. Not that I've ever had millions of dollars that close, but I'm pretty sure that a couple mil smells good.

Real good.

And while I can't call myself an advocate of the rule, because I'm never going to defend the forgoing of education for a game, I can certainly empathize with the rule.

Europe didn't exist five years ago when this rule was put into place. It's very much now a viable option.

The rule -- which, in my opinion, openly suggests a year of college -- straightens out any clutter or confusion with kids.

Grace the NCAA with your presence for a year, and then bolt. But at least keep your talent in the States and CONSIDER the possibility of getting a degree.

Because, and nothing against Europe, I would much rather see homegrown talent in America where I can watch them on television before they go pro.

And while the rule is definitely flawed, it guarantees us, as fans and regular human beings, that we get to see tomorrow's professional superstars today -- as regular human beings.

If only for a year.





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