School is Not for Everyone

Here at Big Ten Geeks, we try to stick to the numbers. That's not to say basketball can be reduced to a spreadsheet, but frankly, that's what we're best at doing. So we generally try to stick to the math, and leave the subjective evaluations and opinions to others.

But I'm going to make an exception here, to talk a little about the "One Year Rule."
/Begin Soapbox**

In 2005, David Stern and the NBA Players Union negotiated a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. There were lots of provisions in the new CBA, but the one everybody remembers is the "one year rule." Specifically, the rule states that entrants into the draft must be 19 years old and one year removed from high school before entering the draft. This rule was welcomed by NCAA President Myles Brand (who claimed it would spur more athletes to get an education), NBA Commissioner David Stern (who claimed it would provide the NBA with players who have better fundamentals), and NBA Players Association Executive Director Billy Hunter, well, Billy Hunter doesn't seem to have wanted this, but he didn't exactly fight it too hard. More on him later.

So now, in 2008, we should see plenty of talented players who could go early instead choose to stay in school, and the NBA should be a shining beacon of fundamental basketball, right?

Heh, right.

Surrounding the one-year rule (and now the advocacy about a two year rule) is dishonesty. Stern and Brand might care about education and fundamentals, but they care about something else much more: Money. Go back and take a look at that CBA. You'll see terms like "Salary Cap" "Mid-Level Exception" and "Right of First Refusal." Make no mistake, it took a big team of slick-suit-wearin'-lawyers on both sides, billing hundreds of dollars an hour, to generate that document. That document costs a lot of money. Nobody throws around that kind of cash in order to make sure that future millionaires take an introductory psychology class, or that the art of the free-throw-line-extended bank shot doesn't die with Tim Duncan's retirement.

Myles Brand makes money because superstars like Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant become his unpaid employees instead of opting to make millions elsewhere. David Stern likes the rule because superstar college players make a name for themselves beating up on inferior competition, so that by the time they suit up for their first NBA game, they are fully-formed marketable products. Quick - where did Amare Stoudemire go to high school? Not many casual basketball fans knew the answer to that question in 2002 - a great many more know where OJ Mayo went to college.

As for the Players' Union, well, that's somewhat of a mixed bag. Fringe players stand to gain from the rule - if the talent level is kept artificially low by keeping talented high schoolers out, these players will enjoy another year of private planes, entourages, and a $400k-$1.3M minimum salary. On the other hand, the rule cost a guy like Greg Oden a lot of money, and Hunter does answer to him (eventually) as well. Lately, Hunter has been a bit more vocal about his distaste for the rule.

So who loses? Well, that's easy - very good high school players. Imagine you worked in an industry that spit you out by the time you reached your late 30s. Career over, no more paychecks. You'd want to start making that money as soon as you could. If your industry kept you out for reasons that had nothing to do with your qualifications for the job, well, you'd probably wonder whether or not this was America.

Now, I know there are two sides to this argument. Maybe there are some benefits to the one year rule that I haven't recognized. But this issue is not as easy as Stern and Brand would have us believe. What's clear to me though is that Hunter seems to be the only one talking honestly. And for now, I'm content with being on that side of the debate.

/End Soapbox

We'll be back to our regularly-scheduled programming tomorrow...