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The NBA's the CBA (Collective Botching of Age)

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The NBA's the CBA (Collective Botching of Age)
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard, Tracy McGrady...This short list could be an All-NBA Team selection.  Not only does this team contain a group of individuals who have a combined five championship rings and an astounding 35 All-Star Team selections, they were all a part of the NBA’s Preps to Pros movement in the '90s.

The aforementioned movement reopened the eyes of the NBA to the monster potential that was inherent in extremely talented high school players that had not seen a successful prep star turned pro stud since Moses Malone.

What also resulted from the Preps to Pros movement were a gaggle of high school stars that were unprepared for the pro game taking a leap into the league, blinded by thoughts of millions of dollars and stardom. 

It were the stories like those of Gerald Green, Robert Swift, and Sebastian Telfair that turned the NBA against the notion of drafting high school players because the risk and cost of bringing in an underdeveloped, but talented player were too great.

As a result, Commissioner David Stern changed the draft eligibility of NBA prospects, making the age of entry into the league 19 and forced high school students to allow at least one year between playing high school basketball to going to the pros in the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement. 

The move was made with the best intentions.  Stern wanted these young men to develop and mature further before thrusting themselves into a league that would pressure them from every angle.

It would also provide the NCAA with some star power, as those ultra talented prep players would fill the seats at colleges across the United States and draw more attention from the media if they had a future NBA star at their campus.

What actually happened was disaster.  Prep stars reluctantly went to universities because they had to and not wanted to, affecting their performance on the court.  Just ask Jrue Holiday how his experience at UCLA was.  He was a top-five recruit on both rivals.com and scout.com. 

His production did not meet expectation as he averaged 8.5 points in 27 minutes.  Evidence that the system is not taken seriously can be found in the 2009 Draft where Holiday was a lottery pick based on the production and potential he showed in high school, not on his production at UCLA.

The recruitment of high school phenoms certainly brought star players to certain campuses and did bring much attention to the NCAA.  That’s not all recruitment brought.  It also brought unethical recruiting practices and the buying off of certain stars to play for greedy campuses (*cough* Memphis *cough*).

The system also did not foster much loyalty once the players arrived in NCAA.  A majority of the top prospects made it blatantly clear they were only playing for one year and immediately leaving for the NBA. 

Not only are students, alumni, and fans of the university getting cheated, the team is being cheated from growing a developing as a unit when a player selfishly is playing for his own benefit and not for the university’s.

And then, there was Brandon Jennings.  Finding a loop hole in the Collective Bargaining Agreement clause referring to the age restriction, Jennings bolted to Italy to make some money while waiting for his name to be called in the draft. 

Now, there is nothing wrong with trying to make some money overseas.  The problem is if others follow suit, we will be losing top young talent in the US who could be playing in Europe or elsewhere for an extended period of time if the money is right.

I know the league did not foresee all these problems, but now that they have come to light, shouldn’t they be resolved and corrected?

If David Stern is so worried about undeveloped players entering the league, he has the D-League to break them into the NBA and allow them to mature as a player and as a mature person. 

If the NCAA fears they will lose star power, they have nothing to fear.  Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Tim Duncan, and a whole score of All-Star players past and present willingly chose to go to college and develop their games rather than jumping to the pros.

It is safe to say that the system is in shambles.  The age restriction has put much strain on the NBA and NCAA the way a noose puts a strain on a convict.  The added rules and regulations put unnecessary strain on young players that now have to over think the game they were meant to play. 

Outright, it should be removed on the next Collective Bargaining Agreement and never questioned again.

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