The Philadelphia 76ers finally did the media a favor and won a game. Granted it was against the Minnesota Timberwolves (only the worse team in the western conference), but a win is indeed a win. Now the Sixers have some front office issues that they need to address, for sure, but the fact that a professional team in the National Basketball Association could be so significantly below average in all aspects of the game, should start to ring a bell in some executive ears that maybe the acquisition of players before they are ready are not only detrimental to the college game, but the pros as well. And it can be seen all around the league.
The NBA is one of the largest businesses in sports, however the products they are producing are starting to lose their value. It was reported by CBS Detroit that there is a bigger surge in viewership in the National Hockey League (NHL) fan base than there is in the NBA. But how could that be with all the so-called “once in a lifetime” talent and drafts picks that the NBA has sold its fans on? Could it be cost related? Could it be demographics? Certainly it could. But one must come to the realization that the very reason the NBA stinks in viewership and fan base could simply be the reduced quality of the product itself: the players. The NBA isn’t picking up quality players in the fashion they used to because college players are leaving school too early and too underdeveloped.
In 2006, then NBA Commissioner David Stern implemented a new eligibility policy that players must be at least 19 years of age and one year removed from high school (be it at least one year of college or overseas play). This “one and done” mentality among young players is actually diminishing the quality of production we are seeing on the court, as not every young player is ready for the wear and tear that comes along with being in the NBA, both mentally and physically, after just one year of college ball.
It’s also very difficult for college coaches to build solid programs when there’s a high percentage chance that incoming freshmen will be leaving after one year. Kentucky’s head coach John Calipari is not a fan of this rule, as he has been a victim of this numerous times. He’s lost players such as: John Wall , DeMarcus Cousins , Anthony Davis , Michael Kidd-Gilchrist , Nerlen Noel and Julius Randle to the one and done rule. Of course Calipari as well as Kentucky has a high-profile name and reputation, so they will continue to recruit the best talent in the nation, but imagine what kinds of players these kids could be if they stuck around a little longer.
The truth is, some of the best players the NBA has ever seen, stayed in school two years or more:
- Charles Barkley: 3 yrs- Auburn
- Grant Hill: 4 yrs- Duke
- Dominique Wilkins: 4 yrs- Georgia
- Michael Jordan: 3 yrs- UNC
- Shaquille O’Neal- 4 yrs LSU
- Allen Iverson- 2 yrs Georgetown
Their style of play, the longevity of their careers, and the physicality they brought into the league were characteristics of playing college ball over a period of time and giving themselves an opportunity to develop. Look how many freshman leave college after a year and either injure themselves their rookie season (i.e. Julius Randle), or come into the league already injured and not give themselves the proper time to get acclimated to playing again before jumping into professional level ball (i.e. Nerlen Noel in 2013 and Joel Embiid 2014 season who both happen to play for the Philadelphia 76ers… surprised?)
Most rookies that are one and done even make an immediate impact in the league their rookie season. In fact, over the last 10 years, most of the players who have won the Rookie Of the Year Award spent at least two years in college before entering the draft.
Of course there are exceptions to every rule. Carmelo Anthony and Anthony Davis are two recent one and dones to have won an NCAA Championship their freshman year. Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett, and Amar’e Stoudemire, are all household names that made huge impacts on the league, and they came straight out of high school. But let’s be serious, how many Kobe Bryant’s is the NBA going to see? Every kid can’t be a phenom. Some need to stay a few years for that extra that the college games brings. Some consider Jordan the best to ever play the game, yet he spent three years at UNC before entering the draft. That just goes to show how rare it is for talent to be that prepared for the pros that early.
Staying another year in school is not going to hurt a players draft stock if said player is as good as predicted. In fact, it would raise it if said player showed development and improvement throughout the course of his college career.
And whatever happened to school spirit? Wanting to win a championship? Wanting to be known as the big man on campus? Building camaraderie with teammates? All of that seems to be lost when players participate to the bare minimum just fulfill the eligibility requirements to enter the draft.
The college game is suffering and the pro game is suffering because of this rule. Even if the NBA adopted a policy similar to Major League Baseball (where a player has the option to come right after high school, but if they are not drafted and enters college, they MUST stay at least 3 years before entering the draft again), there would be some solace in knowing that colleges at least have an opportunity to build a decent program around solid players. The NBA would know once the players arrive, there is some sense of maturity and leadership as well as responsibility and physicality already instilled in the player from their time within the college program. And more importantly, the fan base would have a much slimmer chance of having to endure watching an underdeveloped team like the 76ers ever again.