Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant skipped college when that was an option for high schoolers and entered the NBA draft in 1996. The outspoken 15-time All-Star is not exactly a fan of the NCAA.
According to Lakers Nation's Serena Winters, Bryant takes exception to the current rules, which keep players from declaring for the draft straight out of high school:
Kobe questions NCAA basketball system, "It seems like the system really isn't teaching players anything…" http://t.co/UA8QFl3d9s— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) January 23, 2014
Kobe on players who came out of high school vs. college (1/2): "If you do the numbers & you look at the count you probably see players...— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) January 23, 2014
...who came out of high school that were much more successful on avg than players that went to college for a year or 2 years." - Kobe (2/2)— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) January 23, 2014
Coming out of Lower Merion High School in Pennsylvania, the Charlotte Hornets drafted Kobe 13th overall and traded him to Los Angeles for Vlade Divac. The 1996 draft also produced another fine high school product in six-time All-Star Jermaine O'Neal, picked 17th overall by the Portland Trail Blazers.
The current rules, which require one NBA season to pass since a player's high school graduation, were established under the 2005 collective bargaining agreement. Here is a copy of the rules, per the NBA Players Association.
The first draft to be affected was in 2006. Eight American-born players were selected out of high school the previous year: Martell Webster (No. 6 overall), Andrew Bynum (10), Gerald Green (18), C.J. Miles (34), Monta Ellis (40), Lou Williams (45) Andray Blatche (49) and Amir Johnson (56).
Do you agree with Kobe?
Nine seasons later, every player except for Bynum is still a contributor, and the 26-year-old was an All-Star and two-time NBA champion.
Perhaps Kobe has a point. Coming out of high school didn't hurt his development, nor did it impact the league's final high school draft class.
Just because Bryant has a point, though, does not mean a change is coming. Even in the basketball world, the Mamba's voice only carries so much weight.
The system isn't perfect, and critics have different solutions in mind. Some agree with Bryant and want the requirement removed. Others would like to see something more stringent, a rule that keeps the game's greatest talents on college campuses for more than just a one-and-done season.
Expect this debate to continue, and look for red flags raised on both sides of the issue. Until these challenges are coming from NBA executives and/or NCAA bigwigs, this rule—flawed though it may be—isn't going to change.