NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is serious about raising the league's age limit. Serious enough, in fact, that he's willing to pay NCAA players in hopes of making them stay in college an extra year.
Per ESPN's Darren Rovell, Silver discussed a plan whereby the NBA would subsidize college basketball players as a way to encourage them to stick around on campus instead of jumping to the league after just one year.
"Rather than focusing on a salary and thinking of them as employees, I would go to their basic necessities," Silver told Rovell. "I think if [Connecticut Huskies guard] Shabazz Napier is saying he is going hungry, my God, it seems hard to believe, but there should be ample food for the players."
Silver was referring to Napier's comments about the difficulties many student-athletes face, as reported by CNN's Sara Ganim:
I don't feel student-athletes should get hundreds of thousands of dollars, but like I said, there are hungry nights that I go to bed and I'm starving. I just feel like a student-athlete, and sometimes, like I said, there's hungry nights and I'm not able to eat and I still got to play up to my capabilities. ... When you see your jersey getting sold -- it may not have your last name on it -- but when you see your jersey getting sold and things like that, you feel like you want something in return.
Napier's point about the inequity of high-profile NCAA basketball players generating money for their schools and seeing none of it themselves is one being discussed more and more.
Silver is, perhaps, seizing the momentum of that issue in order to further one of his key goals for the NBA: raising the age limit. According to Rovell, that task might be somewhat difficult through normal channels:
Raising the age limit for the NBA draft from 19 to 20 years old would require the approval of the National Basketball Players Association as part of the collective bargaining agreement, but Silver said Wednesday at the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center Partner Summit that he was willing to work with the NCAA to give athletes a more fair deal.
It makes sense for Silver to approach the issue from both sides. And in his comments to Rovell, the new commissioner said a "three-way conversation" between the NBA, the players' union and the NCAA is the best way to address all parties' concerns.
Right away, Silver's idea was met with approval:
Adam Silver’s aggressive, progressive thinking is going to save this game from itself.— Alan Hahn (@alanhahn) April 10, 2014
Finally, an NBA commissioner willing to open the door to a real solution http://t.co/aoMRzQmBEX Adam Silver! Great start to convo.— Jason Whitlock (@WhitlockJason) April 10, 2014
If Silver is successful in implementing a plan that effectively uses NBA funds to provide student-athletes with things like insurance, or even meal money, it'll be a significant change in the current structure.
No matter what happens from here, it's clear Silver has an opinion about the plight of players like Napier. His suggested subsidy indicates a belief that student-athletes deserve some kind of compensation.
Even if Silver is only advancing this line of conversation because he wants a way to raise the age limit, it seems uncompensated collegiate athletes suddenly have a powerful ally.
This might be the first step toward calling NCAA basketball what it really is for many top-tier athletes: the NBA's minor league.