At 18 and entering your freshman year of college, a lot around you changes. As you acclimate to the new surrounding and try and grab hold of the new ropes, it can seem overwhelming. If you’re Andrew Wiggins, you have a lot more on your plate than the average freshman too. At 18 and beginning his freshman year at the University of Kansas, Wiggins is the player to watch in this years college basketball season, and it just might be this year only. Many are expecting Wiggins to declare for the spring '14 NBA draft after he finishes his one mandatory collegiate season. At 6'8 many believe Wiggins would make an impact in the NBA if he was eligible to enter last years draft upon completing high school. One NBA GM said Wiggins would be the best rookie player this season forget next season.
In 2005 NBA commissioner David Stern implemented 'Article X' into the collective bargaining agreement. Article X was a provision that changed player eligibility. Since 2005 athletes wanting to enter the draft must be 19 years old and one year removed from their high school graduation. This has started what's now known as the "one-and-done" rule. At the time it was thought this rule would help all involved, giving players a time to adjust to playing professionally and allowing NBA franchises a time to evaluate players before the draft. It also gave colleges a guarantee that these superstars would be on campus for at least one year. Seven seasons after the provision began and it is becoming obvious that it isn't benefiting anyone.
What was meant to protect young high schoolers from the harshness of playing professionally has actually proved to hurt many who felt ready for the NBA right after graduation. Through Article X, the NBA is essentially telling plays that they aren’t ready to play on the biggest stage. Looking at current players in the league today, there are many who decided to forego college and head right to the league and most of them are doing okay. Neither Lebron James nor Kobe Bryant attended college. At 18 they both felt ready to play in a man's game and rightfully so. Combined they have 7 NBA championships and 8 MVP awards. Both of these present day stars lived up to the hype, signing multi-million dollar contracts shortly after completing high school. Since 2005 many have had to put their dreams on hold because the NBA deemed them not ready.
The money and contracts that lay on the line for these athletes is life changing. Many players come from families who struggle financially and a contract with the NBA brings about new hope. Instead of being able to sign million dollar contracts, athletes are coerced into signing a letter of intent where they ultimately make whatever university they sign with millions of dollars. All while the families of the players who struggle financially have to sit home and watch the games because per NCAA rules, neither the university nor the NCAA can pay for family members to travel to games including the finals of the billion dollar industry of the March Madness tournament.
With all other issues in dealing with Article X aside, having to wait out on signing endorsement deals is the true killer. The money that is generated through these deals is many times more lucrative than a rookie contract. This is the cash cow for young all-star players and where they really can make their fortune.
The struggles Lebron James faced growing up are well known. Coming from a broken home, raised by a single mother, an NBA contract alone would change his life. Drafted with the number one pick in 2003 by the Cleveland Cavilers, James signed a rookie maximum contract of a four-year $12.96 million dollar deal. While this seems like a lot, it's not in comparison. Previously James signed a seven-year endorsement deal with Nike for $90 million. Barely a month after graduating high school, James would be making more money in the next year then most people make in a lifetime yet he was only 18.
Requiring these men to wait a year, the NBA is keeping them from signing huge contracts. For those like James and Bryant who are ready, attending college when they really have no desire too is not only a waste of everyone's time, but also putting them at risk for injury furthermore decreasing their chances at succeeding.
Last years projected number one draft choice Nerlens Noel is a prime example of a player who drew the short end of the straw by being forced to do a year stint playing college ball. Going into his first season at the University of Kentucky, Noel was favorite to be the number one pick in the 2013 draft. In a game against University of Florida, Noel tore his ACL forcing him to miss the rest of the season and set him back in training and preparing for the draft. He was later drafted sixth overall.
As Wiggins prepares for his first and most likely only year at Kansas, he is hoping to avoid the issues Noel had to face. Like Noel, Wiggins is also projected to be drafted number one overall. This means his year at Kansas can only leave him prone to declining in value. Had Wiggins been able to enter the NBA for this season he would be making millions this year, not being exploited making millions for the NCAA and University of Kansas.
Not only is this situation unfair. It boarders on being illegal. Age discrimination is just as much a form of discrimination as racial or any other type of discrimination. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission define age discrimination as “Age discrimination involves treating someone (an applicant or employee) less favorably because of his age”. They go on to explain that “The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.” It is often overlooked that the NBA and its teams are merely employers and high school and college players are merely hopefully job applicants. It has been shown many examples throughout history that players under 19 are just as qualified to play in the NBA as anyone else. In no other workplace would a rule like this be acceptable.
Additionally, the players are in no position to challenge this rule. Most kids immediately out of high school do not have anywhere near the finances to take on the NBA’s army of lawyers. Even if they did, a legitimate case would take way longer than a year to prepare and fight to the verdict. By this time the player is draft eligible anyway and has no reason to continue with the lawsuit. Though there have been a select few players who have attempted to take legal action, their feeble attempts have been shot down in court. In reality, players have no choice but to accept the unfair rule which was collectively bargained by a players union which they were not a part of.
The NBA claims that the rule was put in place to protect the teams and the players but in reality its putting the players in a situation where they have basically nothing to gain and everything to lose. The culture surrounding the NCAA can put just as much outside pressure on a young player as the NBA. College basketball is not an adjustment period to the NBA, these players are thrust right into the world of media and spotlight and TV deals, etc. Some March Madness games get higher TV viewership than NBA games. The NBA is essentially colluding to allow their teams closer looks at these players before they sink millions of dollars into them. To them, the talent is replaceable. If one of their top prospects gets hurt in a college game they’ll just draft whoever was next on their list. However, to the players, the NBA is not replaceable. They pick their college based on basketball because people around the NBA tell them repeatedly that teams are interested in signing them. Then something goes wrong and suddenly there’s no more interest.
While its rare that a player will suffer an injury that completely ends a career, it’s not uncommon for a players value to fall based on one bad season in college. Many teams will look at this more than the four spectacular years the player had in high school and will back off. This opens the door for other teams to scoop up the player at a discounted rate with the expectation of bringing him back to higher playing levels. In reality, everyone involved, the NBA as a whole, each individual team, the NCAA, the individual schools, comes out a head except the player. While the rule sounds good at first glance, a deeper look shows the NBA is looking to save itself a few bucks at the expense of these players.