National Basketball Association owners and players are in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement and an old subject is on the table: What should be the minimum age of a player entering the league?
The owners think 20 years of age and two college seasons is appropriate, while the players think if there is, say, another Kobe Bryant or LeBron James out there at 18, why should they be denied entry? It has been a point of contention for decades now and the owners and players about 10 years ago, raised the age of the minimum to 19 and only year of school or in case of foreign players 19 and some development.
Money was the real reason the owners wanted the age restriction. It was not the rookie contract that bothered the owners, it was the second contract. The thinking was this. If the owners could push back the age minimum, they could also push back the time when a player could become a free agent whether it was restricted after three years or full free agent after four seasons. It’s easier to evaluate a slightly older player when it comes to offering that player a second contract.
The owners would also get free research and development from colleges and universities. Players can get better or worse in the college game and NBA owners didn’t have to pay them millions to learn the business. Former Commissioner David Stern wanted his scouts out of high school gyms, the US military has been busy at high school facilities trying to recruit soon to be 18-year-old graduates to sign up for service.
Stern didn’t think the NBA is the right environment for an 18-year-old, but the United States military has no problems signing up an 18-year-old and recruiting on a high school campus. The priorities seem to be out of whack. Even David Stern understood that.
By Evan Weiner For The Politics Of Sports Business
This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Evan Weiner.