NBA Age Requirements: LeBron James and Others Prove There Shouldn't Be One

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NBA Age Requirements: LeBron James and Others Prove There Shouldn't Be One
MARK DUNCAN
High school photo of LeBron James, who went on to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 draft

When Reggie Harding was drafted by the Detroit Pistons in the 1962 draft, he became the first player drafted straight out of high school to ever play in the NBA. It was an unprecedented leap which many, including some all-time greats, have followed.

Effective in 2006, however, the NBA changed its rule to no longer allow players to make an immediate transition from high school into the NBA. Instead, now a player has to be at least 19 years old and a year removed from high school.

Recently though, new NBA commissioner Adam Silver has vowed to push to increase the age minimum yet again. If successful, Silver will raise the age limit to 20 years old, completely eliminating teenagers from the NBA.

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This wouldn’t be a problem if there were few or no players straight out of high school who have experienced success in the NBA.

And just like college and international players drafted into the NBA, there are some stars, and then there are some busts. Each case is different. But one factor remains the same. It seems as if the NBA is penalizing the players when really it’s the teams who misjudged the talent and drafted a high-schooler hoping he would save their franchise.

As a 19-year-old Georgia high school senior, Kwame Brown dominated lesser competition at Glynn Academy on his way to becoming the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2001.

It wasn’t Brown’s fault that NBA experts thought he would be the next great dominant center and touted him as the best player in that draft class. He simply capitalized on the chance to be the top pick and got paid handsomely in the process.

The NBA has worked hard to eliminate this type of situation from happening, but it has gone about it in the wrong way.

For a lot of these uniquely talented players, they don’t want to “waste” a year of their career in college. Although he doesn’t support it, University of Kentucky head coach John Calipari has become synonymous with the one-and-done rule. Doing away with the NBA age minimum would decrease the obvious one-and-done college players who can’t wait for the season to be over so they can declare for the draft.

Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images
Kobe Bryant visiting his former high school, Lower Merion

Furthermore, for some of these players, going straight to the NBA is a way of creating a better life for themselves, which may include being able to take care of their families financially or moving out of an unsafe environment.

For some players, basketball is their only hope, and stripping them of an opportunity to earn a living at their earliest convenience isn’t fair. In a country where you can join the Army and be sent into hostile territory straight out of high school, is it fair to say you can’t make money off of your basketball talents straight out of high school? It seems very hypocritical to deny these players that right.

A year of college basketball wouldn’t have done LeBron James any favors. Players should be able to get drafted straight out of high school if their talent warrants that step. It’s up to the NBA teams’ scouts to determine where the player should be drafted and what kind of expectations are placed upon him. If anything, the NBA should lower the age requirement, not raise it.

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