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The NBA Age Limit

No High Schoolers Need Apply


Derrick Rose and David Stern

Commissioner David Stern welcomes Derrick Rose to the NBA. Stern is not nearly as hospitable to high schoolers.

Getty Images / Nick Laham
Some of the most significant players in today's NBA -- including Kevin Garnett of the World Champion Boston Celtics and three members of the U.S. Olympic Team (Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and LeBron James) entered the league right out of high school. But the Association was concerned about the growing emphasis on preps-to-pros, citing a number of flame-outs and players who didn't reach their potential for years after being drafted, and two years ago, imposed an age restriction on entry to the NBA draft. The relevant passage from article X of the NBA's collective bargaining agreement is as follows:
A player shall be eligible for selection in the first NBA Draft with respect to which he has satisfied all applicable requirements of Section 1(b)(i) below and one of the requirements of Section 1(b)(ii) below:

(i) The player (A) is or will be at least 19 years of age during the calendar year in which the Draft is held, and (B) ... at least one (1) NBA Season has elapsed since the player’s graduation from high school

With this new rule in place, a new "class" of NCAA player has emerged -- the "one and done". "One and Done" has become a catch-phrase describing superstar high schoolers who would have made the jump directly to the NBA if such jumps were still allowed, who are now forced to bide their time in the college ranks for a year. Four of the top five selections in the 2008 NBA Draft -- Derrick Rose of Memphis, Michael Beasley of Kansas State, O.J. Mayo of USC and Kevin Love of UCLA -- are prime examples.

The Age Limit Debate

The age limit has no shortage of critics, and a number of potential options for amending the rule have been proposed. The most popular proposal seems to be a system patterned after Major League Baseball's amateur draft. High schoolers can enter MLB's draft, but if they enter college, they become ineligible until after their junior year.

The case of Brandon Jennings, the high schooler who chose a professional contract in Europe over a scholarship to the University of Arizona, is sure to re-ignite the debate in the months ahead.

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