The recent injury to Kentucky Wildcats Nerlens Noel has brought to the forefront when a player has a right to declare for the NBA. The injury will impact his Draft Stock in the upcoming 2013 NBA draft.
It’s sparked many analysts to declare that the injury, while disheartening, should have been comforted with a NBA contract from last year’s draft. Had Noel had his way, he likely would have declared for the NBA straight from high school. It’s hard to discount the fact that Noel will likely be subject to a lower initial salary had his injury not occurred. However, before we strike down the NBA’s age requirement (19; typically associated with being a year post high school), let’s revisit the NBA when such a bylaw existed.
You may recall the drafting of Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, and LeBron James as a time when the NBA allowed individuals to declare for the NBA from high school. You can point to their success and longevity to make the case to reinstate an earlier age restriction. They never regretted not stepping foot on campus, playing for school pride, or challenging for a National championship. Neither did they suffer from a lack of formal education or a need for an extra year to develop. So why not let the next Bryant graduate from high school and sign his NBA contract and welcome his eight figure shoe deal?
Amir Johnson, Andray Blatche, Louis Williams, Monta Ellis, Ricky Sanches, CJ Miles, Gerald Green, Martell Webster. Who are these players? These are a few of the names from the last NBA draft (2005) when players under nineteen could declare themselves eligible. The term ‘Bust’ doesn’t apply to all, but general consensus is many never lived up to their hype or potential. Could they have benefited from an additional year? Maybe.
Unlike Noel, their careers weren’t taken off track with an ESPN prime time injury nor had the fortune of ever becoming a household name. A poster child for a lackluster career, bad advice, or immaturity is more difficult to come by and a lot harder to sell. Easier to paint the picture for change is Noel’s injury, a top recruit at a historically successful program with constant media attention and a future Hall of Fame coach providing backdrop quotes.
Contrary to speculation, the NBA is not in collaboration with the NCAA nor depriving any individual of their right to make a living. They are protecting their greatest asset. The players. The league has a fiscal and moral obligation at times to protect the players from themselves. A byproduct is the preservation of the NBA image.
For every James asked to temporarily postpone the NBA dream or Noel injury, there are twenty Websters, who unbeknownst to themselves will gain the fortune of a long lasting career. A sustainable career won’t sell or capture the headlines like a Top-Ten Sportscenter nominee, but it does embody the true spirit of the NBA.