February 14, 2013

BLOG: Injuries don't mean NBA should let high school kids in

The Express-Star

— Kentucky freshman forward Nerlens Noel tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee Tuesday night in a game against Florida, ending his season.

Noel was the national leader in blocked shots with 4.5 per game, and early projections showed that he would be selected in the top five, possible No. 1, in this year’s NBA draft.

The NBA has a rule that a player must either be 19 years old or play one year of college basketball before being eligible for the draft. Each time a college player suffers an injury, that rule comes under fire.

Both sides of the argument have some merit. Those against the NBA’s age-minimum say that a player shouldn’t be forced to risk injury without pay in college if there is an NBA team that would draft them out of high school.

There are plenty of success stories of players who go pro out of high school, some of the most prominent including Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Garnett.

There are also some cautionary tales, like Kwame Brown, of players who made the jump, burned their college eligibility and dropped out of the league.

The failures are often less publicized, but were far more frequent than the high school-to-pro players who became All-Stars and NBA champions.

Those in favor of the rule say it protects players from their own bad decisions. Even one year of college provides a year to mature mentally and physically, and some players figure out that college is best for them. It gets them on the first step toward an education. If college isn’t for them, they can still enter the NBA as a 19-year-old with a long career ahead.

Whenever a player has a serious injury in college, the rule gets blamed. I don’t necessarily agree with the rule 100 percent, but I believe the NBA, like any company, has a right to decide what qualifications potential employees must have.

I don’t understand why the media calls the NBA wrong for “not giving kids the right to earn a living”. I’ve never heard that accusation leveled against a Fortune 500 company that requires a college degree from applicants.

I’m sure there are some amazingly talented college students who become ready for the workforce before they earn their degrees. But, there are many companies who won’t hire them until they get the degree, and the companies have that right. The NBA and the NFL are no different.

I feel for Noel and any other player whose dreams might be derailed during college by injury, but those injuries are not the fault of the NBA, they are an unfortunate reality in sports.