The NBA should change its minimum age requirement back to 18

By Alex Roux

Editor’s note: This column is written as part of a point-counterpoint. The other column, arguing the NBA should raise its age limit, can be read here.

In today’s world of college basketball, Kentucky is inevitably at the center of the debate about the “one-and-done” issue that has overshadowed the sport.

This NCAA tournament brought more postseason success for the Wildcats, who were once again carried through March on the backs of freshmen destined for NBA stardom. Kentucky has become a one-and-done factory under head coach John Calipari, who markets his school to recruits as the quickest ticket to NBA success. 

The chatter around the issue seems to grow louder every year since the NBA instituted its minimum age requirement of 19 in 2006. In the eight years since the creation of the rule, NCAA schools have been the temporary home for basketball prospects that are basically forced into accepting at least a year at school before they can test their talent in the NBA. Oftentimes, these players stay only one year before bolting to the league.

I believe this system is hurting college basketball as well as the athletes that the rule is supposedly protecting. The minimum age requirement should be changed back to 18 in order to allow any adult male to enter the NBA Draft if he chooses.

Even the man whose career relies on the success of 18-year-old freshmen doesn’t endorse the one-and-done system himself. 

That’s right, Calipari himself doesn’t even like the rule. Even though he’s a bit of a hypocrite, I don’t blame him. After all, it was just last season that he saw his own player, likely No. 1 overall pick Nerlens Noel, go down with an ACL tear during his obligatory freshman season. The injury cost Noel millions of dollars, as he fell to being drafted sixth overall when he likely would have gone higher.

The NBA created the age requirement in order to protect its franchises from drafting “busts” due to an inadequate gauge on players’ abilities straight out of high school. Well, NBA GMs are still drafting busts. Since Noel was crippled after last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted Anthony Bennett out of UNLV No. 1 overall. Bennett was a huge disappointment in his rookie year, averaging just 4.1 points per game. He was a bust. So in the past year alone, the NBA age requirement has put at least one player’s career in jeopardy and failed to prevent its teams from drafting players that clearly weren’t ready for the league.

The rule can also unnecessarily prolong hardship for players’ families. Many players that would make the jump straight from high school if they could come from rough backgrounds and poor families. 

The NBA should not have the right to prevent a player from cashing in on his athletic abilities if he is perfectly capable of competing at the highest level, especially since a lot of these athletes legitimately need a paycheck. It’s not the same as the NFL, where there could be physical danger if high school players skipped college. Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James all made smooth transitions straight from high school to the NBA.

The system of essentially forcing players to go to college needs to end. An 18-year-old basketball player should be able to turn pro just as easily as a 16-year-old golfer or tennis player. 

I believe the NBA would be better off adopting a system similar to Major League Baseball: Players can either turn pro straight out of high school or go to college for at least two or three years.

As it stands now, the schooling of these players is a joke, and the athletes are the punchline.

Alex is a sophomore in AHS. He can be reached at [email protected] and @aroux94.