Basketball fans used to watch their favorite high school athletes jump from varsity to the NBA within the span of a few months.
This all changed in 2006 when a new collective bargaining agreement was introduced. It requires the league to implement a new draft policy forcing all high school players to be at least 19 years old and one year removed from high school in order to become draft eligible.
Those who are talented enough to compete at the NBA level straight out of high school don’t need to prove their skills in college and risk potential career-threatening injuries. LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett are examples of athletes who were skilled enough to succeed in the NBA without wasting a year in school.
With the age limit policy restraining athletes from entering the league straight out of high school, many top players have taken their talents to the collegiate level to further showcase their skills.
In wake of the federal investigation into alleged NCAA corruption, which has recently come to light, college basketball faces an extremely bleak future.
Over the years, 20 schools, including Duke, North Carolina, Texas, Kentucky and Michigan State, allegedly violated NCAA standards by providing high school, and college-level players and their families with money, plane tickets and meals during the recruiting process, according to Yahoo! Sports.
NBA star LeBron James shared his own experience receiving under-the-table offers from colleges in 2003. Instead, he chose to enter the draft out of high school.
“Me and my mom were poor, I’ll tell you that, and they expected me to step foot on a college campus and not go to the NBA? We weren’t going to be poor for long, I’ll tell you that. That’s a fact,” James said in an interview scrum.
LeBron was asked about the craziest offer he got from schools trying to recruit him.
His answer: pic.twitter.com/i807nE0RzV
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 27, 2018
The NCAA gained over $1 billion in revenue during the 2016-2017 school year, with a bulk of it coming from the extravagant March Madness tournament, according to USA Today.
Collegiate coaches also enjoy these financial benefits, especially now with some who are paid more than NBA coaches. Duke’s Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski and Kentucky’s Head Coach John Calipari make an average salary of $8 million per year each, while their star players don’t get paid, according to Sports Illustrated.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver has entertained the idea of ending the “one-and-done” age limit allowing players to enter the NBA draft straight out of high school. Silver also plans to create relationships with high school players and let them be paid to play in the league’s developmental G League as an alternative to college before the NBA, according to ESPN.
Even with the opportunity for high school prospects to skip college and evolve their game in the G League, the maximum salary is only $26,000 per season. That’s far less than the alleged under-the-table deals from college programs or their boosters, and exponentially lower than a rookie NBA deal.
It’s time for the most talented high school athletes to once again gain the freedom to head straight to the pros without worrying about an age limit. The NBA needs to allow high schoolers to pursue their dreams without holding them back.