Friday, October 30, 2009

NBA Age Minimum Redux

Buzz Bussinger's provocative piece in the NY Times, "Bring Back Basketball's Little Big Men", has already generated considerable buzz on this blog. I have been disturbed to read Bhel Atlantic's defense of Commissioner Stern's proposal to raise the NBA age minimum again -- this time to 20. For reasons mentioned below by my colleague Earl Da Goat, the age minimum smacks of paternalism and should be scrapped -- not raised.

I make three additional observations:

1. Who does David Stern think he is? Raising the age minimum is cruel to high school players who have the skill and desire to make the jump to the NBA. Many pro athletes come from poverty and have worked harder than Commissioner Stern can fathom to get to the point where they can take care of their families. For no good reason, the age minimum deprives these kids of their just rewards. One may argue that their opportunity to play in the NBA isn't denied -- just deferred. But let's not forget that every competitive basketball player risks a career-ending injury every time s/he steps on the floor. Commissioner Stern needs to realize that he is not the Great White Father of NBA players: he is an administrator. He should stick to hawking NBA merchandise in Europe and China rather than trying to play Daddy to a group of remarkable young athletes with whom he shares little.

2. Forcing athletes to go to college against their will doesn't help them. Don't get me wrong: I'm all for student-athletes going to college, getting an education and preparing for life after pro sports. But this is -- and ought to remain -- their choice.

Part of my revulsion for forcing athletes to attend college is because Division I NCAA sports are already exploitative. College athletes generate millions of dollars in revenues for their respective schools but are not allowed to be compensated. In light of this, forcing players to attend college smacks of indentured servitude.

Mr. Atlantic seems to think that NBA players will learn to behave like gentlemen if they go to college. He laments the high number of NBA players who father children out of wedlock and suggests that college will somehow teach them not to have sex with groupies. (I guess UNLV alum Larry Johnson skipped that class.). First, there does not seem to be any correlation between going to college and fathering out-of-wedlock children. Second, the suggestion that the NBA should be in the business of preaching abstinence and family values to its players is highly problematic. It is neither Mr. Atlantic's nor Commissioner Stern's business if NBA players have children out of wedlock. There is nothing illegal about it, and many men who never get married are excellent fathers. I am further curious about what other life skills Mr. Atlantic thinks the NBA should be teaching its young players -- classes on cleanliness? The notion that the NBA needs to civilize its players is downright offensive.

And even if you think that pro athletes need to learn some manners, it's not clear that college is the place to learn. Many players are more spoiled in college than they will be in the NBA. (In the NBA, there are no college coaches or university administrators to conceal who wrote your SATs or hide your drug abuse.)

3. The other supposed benefits of the age minimum are trivial
. Bhel Atlantic is a smart guy but even he is struggled to identify the supposed benefits on an NBA age minimum. He argues that the NBA suffers if high school players can enter the draft: because nobody wants to miss out on drafting the next Kobe or KG, NBA teams draft "projects" right out of high school, some of whom will never amount to anything. Poor NBA owners and executives. So NBA scouts will have to get better at their job. Given the downside to the age minimum, that's a burden we should all be willing to live with.


Bhel Atlantic said...

In point #1, H.O.S.S. inadvertently endorses the noxious notion that the teensy chance of athletic success is the way out of the ghetto that young poor people should perambulate towards. We should make it harder, not easier, for poor kids to "take care of their families" through pro sports success -- and easier for them to succeed through professional work that is more widely accessible. I fully associate myself with the recent remarks of President Obama in this regard.

In his point #2, H.O.S.S. says ""College athletes generate millions of dollars in revenues for their respective schools but are not allowed to be compensated." Uh, a free degree (if they choose to complete it), structured coaching, and popular exposure to fans and scouts are not compensation enough? This complaint always struck me as a red herring. Public universities do good research work, and I'm glad that sports serve as a money-maker to subsidize the university's more serious functions.

In his point #3, H.O.S.S. seems to imply "The free market is great! An uncontrolled market leads to perfect outcomes! There can't possibly be any need for regulation or collective action!" I thought H.O.S.S. is an avowed advocate of social justice and government intervention in every other setting.

Finally, I would like to fully associate myself with this October 30th article posted by Fox Sports's Charley Rosen, regarding the NBA age limit. Heck, perhaps ol' Charley read some of ol' Bhel before posting his piece.

H.O.S.S. said...

On Bhel's first comment, I was not endorsing the "the noxious notion that the teensy chance of athletic success is the way out of the ghetto that young poor people should perambulate towards." I agree -- it makes much more sense to shoot to be a doctor or engineer than a pro athlete. But for those who do choose sports -- and who dedicate their lives to that pursuit -- we should not put up artificial roadblocks standing in the way of their success.

H.O.S.S. said...

And one more thing Bhel -- H.O.S.S. IS an advocate of social justice but NOT of social engineering.

And the NBA is not the government. It is not accountable to the people or its players.

Fred said...

I am frankly infuriated by Bhel.

Bhel presumes to claim some knowledge of the "ghetto." The tone of these posts WREAKS of suburban elite kids who know nothing--I mean absolutely nothing-- about the lives that these kids live, the pressures they face.

Bhel's other post says he taught in the Bronx. Again, suburban elite on his way to save the poor ghetto kids. There's a difference between observing a life and living it. Nothing really authentic here on "Jordan Pushed Off."

Fred said...

I am unsubscribing this blog.

Bhel Atlantic said...

Fred - Thanks for sharing your opinion. I didn't know you were subscribed to our posts to begin with! Thanks for reading. - B.A.

Fred said...

What is bhel anyway? Indian food?

Bhel Atlantic said...

Fred, that's correct. My co-bloggers nicknamed me the Bhel Man (or something like that) in real life many years ago.

Sachin said...

Fred--take it easy on Bhel, he's a good guy.

Justin said...

Good article. My feeling is that if you are legit enough to actually be drafted by an NBA team, then you should be allowed at 19 years old. The sacrifices and hard work that you have to put in to get to this point should be not blocked by an age rule, especially when an NBA career is extremely short.

Bhel Atlantic said...

Justin: Actually, the average NBA career, almost 5 seasons, is longer than the average NFL career, about 3.5 years. Yet the NFL requires draftees to have THREE years of college experience. Where is the outrage there?