NCAA fans give thanks to Stern

By Lucas Deal

Dear Commissioner Stern,

I am writing you this letter on behalf of all college basketball fans to say thank you and express our extreme gratitude and appreciation for your 2005 decision to formally exclude all high school-age athletes from entering the NBA draft.

At the time, your decision was seen as a foolish act of power and authority, a decision made purely for the benefit of your massive ego rather than for the betterment of your league.

You were criticized mercilessly by basketball writers and NBA analysts across the globe for your decision, which many people believed had no real purpose other than to limit incidents such as the Michael Jordan/Kwame Brown affair of 2001.

ESPN analyst Tim Legler questioned its numbers (why 19 instead of 20?) while college basketball figurehead Dick Vitale wrote that if “guys like Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and Amare Stoudemire are out there, don’t deny them the chance to play in the NBA.”

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The media blitz was harsh, but you stuck to your guns. Now, only two years later, the fruits of your labor have come into the limelight.

Yes, Greg Oden and Kevin Durant have arrived, and college basketball fans are extremely grateful.

Oden, the brilliant defensive big man from Ohio State, has been the consensus No. 1 overall draft pick since his junior year in high school at Lawrence North in Indianapolis, while the explosive Texan Durant has become the nation’s most dynamic scorer and has played his way into National Player of the Year talk.

Both are freshman. Both are NBA ready.

And yet, because of your ruling in 2005, both are toiling away in the far inferior NCAA.

Oden’s Buckeyes are currently ranked fifth nationally and have a 16-3 record, with all three of their losses coming from teams ranked ahead of them: No. 1 Florida, No. 2 Wisconsin and No. 4 North Carolina.

Oden, meanwhile, has had a fine season and is averaging 15.4 points, 10.1 rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game despite playing with limited use of his right hand.

Two days ago, the recently turned 19-year-old phenom recorded 17 points and 17 rebounds in a victory at Northwestern.

Yep, he’s been a sight to behold in the paint. A dominating post presence we NCAA fans haven’t seen in many years.

And yet, as good as he’s been, Durant has been considerably better.

Just last week, my roommates and I watched in awe as the Texas super frosh almost single-handedly led the Longhorns to a triple-overtime upset of Oklahoma State at Gallagher-Iba Arena.

Durant had 37 points and 12 rebounds in the game, which as crazy as it sounds, was only slightly over his Big 12 average of 29 points per game.

Both players have been incredible, like a glimpse into the NBA without having to deal with Bill Walton. It’s been a real dream.

And there have been other players, too.

Carolina’s Brandon Wright has been a delight to watch, as have Oden’s teammates Mike Conley Jr. and Daequan Cook, and Durant’s sidekick D.J. Augustin.

Whether or not they would have all tested the NBA draft’s waters is doubtful. But, Commissioner, thanks to your decision, they didn’t even have a choice.

They had to go to college. They had to keep us entertained while your fans can only sit and wait for the opportunity to see them in person. Maybe next year, maybe not.

Now that they’re in college, they might not want to leave. That would be really great.

I better get going now, they’re about to show super-frosh highlights on SportsCenter, and I don’t want to miss out.

Thanks again.


All NCAA college basketball fans.

Lucas Deal is a senior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected].