I’ve witnessed some remarkable moments in my life. I still remember Joe Carter rounding the bases after an improbable ninth inning home run to give the Toronto Blue Jays their second World Series title in as many years. I was parked in front of a TV set when Jordan hit that jumper over Byron Scott to seal another championship for the Chicago Bulls. I still remember when five crazy dudes branded under the umbrella of Jackass became viral sensations. Maybe that last one should be forgotten. No, it’s nothing compared to that of someone 10 years my senior. Heck, even someone three years older than myself has lived through some historic events. From witnessing wars and conflicts overseas to living through global warming, if you’re reading this, we’ve all lived through some life-altering moments.

Few would lump a high school basketball player’s right to turn pro after graduation into one of those life-altering moments, but in the context of the sporting realm, it is a major decision. The fact that an 18-year-old can enlist to fight for their country, but would have to wait a year to make millions of dollars has become the go-to counter to one-and-done proponents. A majority of high schoolers fail to achieve superstardom when they reach the NBA. Many end up going bankrupt or playing overseas once their contract has expired. The NBA had instituted a rule that would only allow players who were 19 years of age or older and had been one year removed from their high school graduation to be eligible to declare themselves for the NBA Draft.

That ruling in 2006 was greeted with controversy as the NBA Players Association argued that it violated the right of those young players to have to go to college for a year to bide their time before announcing that they wanted to go pro. The move made sure that no other prospect could replicate the path taken by Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and LeBron James. The counterargument to that was they were believed to be the exception and not the rule, as many high school prospects ultimately flame out and spend all of their money before they even know what to do with it.  

The times appear to be changing. The NBA is moving forward with a proposal to amend the controversial one-and-done rule. Some fear the ruling would open the door for the dark side of the business of sports to invade high school gymnasiums. Except those nefarious agents and runners have been at high school practices, circling the AAU circuit and have long kept tabs on the next big thing to hit the hardwood for some time now.

How does this impact recruiting for colleges? Who will handle the duties of pro scouting? What are the contingencies if a prospect goes undrafted? Those queries still need to be sorted out by the NBA, NBPA and USA Basketball. Unfortunately, the NCAA has not been asked to come to the table to help find a workable solution that could help its case in the future.

The governing body of college sports has been the punchline for years if not decades for its lack of enforcement, in many cases woefully mishandling serious matters.Most recently, the lack of action against UNC where the phrase ‘institutional control’ was a fallacy after an African American Studies course gave passable grades to student-athletes from multiple sports who didn’t attend the class or do any work. The class was ultimately ruled a sham course. For a governing body that has seen its reputation drop sharper than a hunting knife, being involved in negotiations that have an impact on collegiate basketball throughout the US would be integral tool identifying basketball stars of the future.  

There was the punishment of  Penn State for the actions of Jerry Sandusky. The NCAA tried to gain a moral victory by placing bowl bans and reductions in scholarship for the university. After all the trials and lawsuits were put in motion, the NCAA ended up punishing students that had nothing to with any of Sandusky’s horrid behaviour. Essentially colleges governing body took out their frustrations on the innocent to win a battle of perception. As you can imagine, that backfired on the NCAA.

Harsh punishment is nothing new to NCAA, especially considering the precedence from  handed down to USC, based on reports of Reggie Bush’s family taking gifts from prospective agents. The school was banned from bowl games for two season, had 10 scholarships taken away from them for three years and vacated wins from 2004 season based on investigation in Reggie Bush and basketball star OJ Mayo.

For the entities at the table in the talks, right now is an ideal time to make a change to the draft policy. The NBA does have competition, but it’s nowhere close to the realm of being a legitimate threat. Given the broadcasting deals, rights and steady hand from a majority of owners throughout the league, as well as the fan engagement with the product, the stock appears to be steadily climbing.

The move has to be considered a preemptive strike for what could happen down the line. Could it be a good faith gesture by the league to the Players Association before the two sit down to work out a new collective bargaining agreement? Perhaps the NBA got great legal advice that constitutes making a genuine effort to reinstitute the old rules. Maybe this is just about the game itself.

The NBA’s G-League, a developmental league featuring teams throughout Canada and the USA with affiliations to NBA counterparts, operates as a farm team in the same manner as AAA does to Major League Baseball or the AHL for the NHL. While not every high schooler may be ready for the pros, perhaps an influx of talent to the G-League could help draw interest, getting players better coaching and a smaller scale experience of what life in the NBA will be like.

Whatever the actually reason, absolving the rule should benefit all parties involved. Like most decisions, there will be unintended consequences from scrapping the rule. Take, for instance, international players who reside outside of the US. The idea is that USA Basketball will take on the role of scouting pro prospects and letting them know whether they should enter the NBA Draft or not. The idea is great for Americans and players who go to the country to hoop. For the players who opt to play in professional leagues outside of the country, they’re left in an empty space where they could be passed over simply based on their location.

The amendment is a solution, though perhaps not a final one. To make progress, you need to take a step forward. Standing still certainly never got you anywhere.

Leave a Reply