Why basketball players should go to college
David Stern and Miles Brand are colluding to place further restrictions on young people entering the NBA. Their proposed increase on the minimum age limit for NBA entrants is legally dubious (because they are negotiating it outside of the collective bargaining agreement, it smacks of a de facto antitrust conspiracy... even if it were eventually ratified by the rubber stamp of the NBAPA). But their illicit plot is nevertheless a good thing, because if adopted it will save countless future NBA prospects from themselves.
I'm doing a Win Profile right now of the 2007-08 Minnesota Timberwolves (should be up tomorrow morning). A young man named Gerald Green spent some time with the team last season. Statistically he was one of the Wolves few excellent defenders before he was traded to the Houston Rockets at mid season. A review of his previous seasons in Boston showed that last year was not an aberration. He clearly has outstanding defensive skills.
But at an age when he should probably be a senior in college, he is already an NBA journeyman... and is possibly on his way out of the association. He has potential, but he has no real basketball skills. He never had a chance to develop them. Coming out of high school he was an athletically gifted player but not a good basketball player. Had he gone to college and combined his dynamic athleticism and leaping ability with a real game... what would NBA fans have seen then? Unfortunately we will never know the answer to that. Gerald Green's career is set to become yet another monument to the long term perils of skipping college.
Even successful high school jumpers like Kevin Garnett have obvious flaws in their game most likely caused by skipping college. Garnett has no post skills, and he has no clue how to close out ballgames. My brother suggests, correctly, that he never had a chance to learn those things. Coming out of high school, he had to survive the best way he could in the NBA, and that meant using his jump shot. As a rail thin 19 year old, he had no chance of posting very many pros up. And now he doesn't know quite how to go about it.
And look at Kobe. His skills are fine... he probably has his dad to thank for that. But look at what has gotten him into consistent trouble: his unbelievable immaturity. I won't go into the off-the-court problems that nearly ruined his life, but on the court -- could you imagine Michael Jordan sulking around like Kobe did in Games One and Two, just because things weren't going his way? Or could you see Larry Bird putting on the same sort of negative body language display Kobe did? No way.
Even LeBron shows chinks in his personality probably brought on by lack of collegiate training. Have you ever heard a megalomaniac like him? And don't respond "Muhammad Ali" either, because -- as many of today's athletes fail to grasp -- Ali was a master of irony, not megalomania. He was clearly winking and stealing Gorgeous George's self-promotional brilliance when he made his grand statements of superiority. LeBron is not. He is just really, really in love with himself. And basketball being a team game, how long before he begins to completely alienate his teammates with his "my supporting cast" or "No team that has LeBron James on it" comments? Its off putting to me, an NBA junkie... how can those men with the rare talent to actually participate in the Association stand to hear it?
In general I support freedom of entry into any marketplace, but its beginning to look more and more clear to me that -- in this isolated case -- market restrictions are justified. I am convinced the NCAA experience has lasting value for players, value that will always be shrouded by the millions of greenbacks in their eyes. Thus saving them from themselves by temporarily restricting them from entering the NBA is the right thing to do.