Should Players be Able to Skip College and go Straight to the NBA?

Would Kevin Durant have played for Texas if he could have gone straight to the NBA from high school?

LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, and Kevin Garnett are just few of the many names who skipped college altogether and jumped straight from high school to the NBA. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, players were allowed to make the jump. However, after the 2004-05 NBA season, the NBA changed their rule, requiring early draft entrees to be at least one year removed from graduating high school in order to declare for the draft. Since then, many talented players such as Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, and Anthony Davis have attended college for only one year before entering their name into the NBA draft. Durant, Rose, and Davis all are currently NBA superstars who clearly would have been able to play in the NBA right after high school.

So why weren’t they allowed to?

Kwame Brown was one of the few high-profile busts to enter the league straight from high school

Despite the success of many players to enter the NBA straight from high school, there were also many that did not do as well (players such as Kwame Brown and Eddy Curry come to mind). After the 2004 and 2005 drafts, which saw 17 players selected right out of high school, the NBA had seen enough and negotiated a new age limit with the NBA player’s union. The age limit has been 19 years old to this day, and while some people propose it is moved to 20 years old – most notably, NBA commissioner Adam Silver – I believe the age limit should be lowered back to 18 years old, allowing high school superstars to jump straight into the NBA.

If the NBA were to lower the age limit to 18, it would benefit everyone involved – the NBA, players, and even NCAA basketball. In the NBA, they would be able to see stars come into the league sooner, players would be able to make money sooner, and the NCAA would see less “one-and-done” prospects.

One-and-done prospects are players who play in college for only one season before jumping to the NBA, a trend that has become very common among star players since the NBA enacted the 19 year old age limit in 2006. If the NBA lowered their age limit, they could work with the NCAA to institute a rule saying players who do go to college must stay for at least 2 or 3 years. This would greatly help some teams’ stability and consistency, as they would not have to replace many early entry players each season. Also, this could spread the wealth, as there would not be as many spots for large amounts of top players on teams like Kentucky.

The idea that players should be able to jump to the NBA earlier falls in line with Louis Menand’s First Theory of college. In his article “Live and Learn: Why We Have College” for the New Yorker, Menand proposed three theories as to why college is important. The first theory is the most important here, as it revolves around the idea of meritocracy.

Menand’s theory argues that college is a meritocratic system that separates the best people from everyone else. It says the purpose of college is to hone your skills, rise to the top, and potential employers can decide themselves who they believe will be the most successful and hire people from there. However, if you already are at the top of your field before you even go to college, then what would the purpose of college be? Why would you delay your earnings and go into a world of debt only to emerge four years later with the same job you would have had right after high school?

This is not to say the top athletes should be forced to enter the draft – whether, they should be able to have the choice. Some people may value other experiences they could gain in college more than making money right away, and that is totally fine. What is not okay is that they do not have the choice to decide for themselves. If they feel they are ready, they should be able to go.The argument that an age limit protects players from failure is ludicrous, as there will be busts no matter what the age limit is. However, an age limit for top athletes can only hurt their draft stock once they enter college. A perfect example of this is Josh Selby.

Selby graduated high school in 2010 as the top recruit in the nation, and if he had been allowed to go pro right away, he would have undoubtedly

Josh Selby might have had a great NBA career if he could have gone straight to the league out of high school

been a top 10 pick. However, he was forced to go to college for a year, and he struggled mightily in his year, never fully being able to adjust. He still left college after his freshman year, where he was picked 49th overall by the Memphis Grizzlies. Selby never found a spot in the NBA, and now is playing oversees. If Selby were allowed to enter the draft right away, there is no guarantee he would be an NBA star (or even a serviceable rotation player), but he would have made a lot more money and been much better off in life, even if his career on the court did not turn out as well.

All in all, I believe the NBA is wrong in forcing players to wait until they are a year removed from high school to enter their name into the NBA draft. If they are ready to play in the NBA, they should be able to go and earn as much money as they possibly can in their career. In accordance with Louis Menand’s first theory of college, these players are already at the top of their field and thus have already completed the purpose of college without even attending in the first place. As such, forcing players to wait is cruel and unfair, and allowing players to go straight into the league from high school would benefit everyone involved.

6 thoughts on “Should Players be Able to Skip College and go Straight to the NBA?

  1. I disagree with your argument regarding the age limit and the ability for young athletes to go directly to the NBA. As an 18 year old and a college student, I can already see why college is important. Even one year of college is necessary for young athletes in order to get a better grasp of themselves and their environment. Professional athletics is are a high risk, high reward game that people must be mature enough in order to handle the stress. Even through my first 2 months of college I can already see the importance and the significance. College has helped me become more self sufficient and has helped me mature by teaching me lessons and showing me how to overcome diversity. And that is exactly what professional athletes must be able to understand. Their ability to overcome diversity and criticism stems from previous encounters to similar circumstances. If athletes are thrown into these situations they can crumble under the stress and not be able to reach their full potential. There are many athletes who have come out of college too early and failed because they were not mentally, emotionally or physically able to compete.


  2. I would tend to disagree with a couple of the arguments you make in this blog. I think it should be noted that there is absolutely no college requirement in regards to being able to play in the NBA. Top recruits can choose if they want to attend college or not, and there a variety of alternatives. For example, Brandon Jennings went to go play in Europe for a year out of high school, made a decent amount of money, and then wound up being a top 10 pick in 2009. Alternatively, players can choose to sit out, and practice in order to improve their game prior to entering the most competitive league on the planet, and forego a competitive season. Also in the case of Josh Selby, he was always regarded as a prospect with immense talent, but also character issues and a questionable work-ethic. It is difficult to believe that going straight to the NBA out of high school would have turned out well. In fact it is more likely that some NBA team would have given a big contract and then be forced to suffer the cap restrictions when he flaked. I think that the 19 ear old age requirement is something that benefits both players, and the league.


  3. While I think you bring up some valid points, you’re forgetting a few important things. For one, lacking a college education can put these players at a major disservice. Sure, many players go to college for a year and then go straight to the NBA, but there are probably many players who think they will take this route and then realize that sticking with college is a better option. Also, this could severely hinder college basketball if all the best players go straight to the NBA.


  4. I think you make a few bold claims and do not sufficiently substantiate them. For one, you say that allowing players to enter the NBA straight from high school benefits the NCAA because their are fewer one and done prospects. However, this argument holds no merit. Obviously four year college athletes are better for the NCAA than one and done players, but for a top prospect to play one year is undoubtably better than them not playing at all. For example, look at the attention Duke and Kansas basketball received because of Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins, respectively. Great players attract attention and bring in revenue, so having them for one year is better than having them for none at all.

    Regarding Josh Selby, he would have been a top 10 pick had he entered the pros from high school, but who is to say the fame wouldn’t have crushed him? If he didn’t thrive in college than what leads you to believe he would have thrived in the NBA? I am convinced that had Selby gotten a massive paycheck and then floundered as a player, his life would be considerably word. Lastly, you fail to acknowledge the point that players have the option to play professionally oversees.


  5. Growing up in an athletic community, this conversation often comes up. Yeah, it would be cool and all and so many people would do well. However, from a long term aspect, what happens if you get first after the first few years? You have this money but will it last you the rest of your life? In my opinion, pro league should be determined from who can compete the best after completing four years of college, because from a financial standpoint, they’ll be set. My brother actually redshirted, played his 4 years, and then entered the draft where he is able to have both a degree in economics and play some years in the NFL first. Yes, theory one has to do with the idea of a system to sort people out, but if you can’t survive college and learn to balance, then maybe playing pro isn’t your true fit.


  6. I have to disagree. First off just because a player has to wait until they are 19 to enter the draft that does not mean they have to spend that year in college. They can spend time training or playing in other leagues. Additionally if an athlete is not up to par for the draft one year after they were supposedly at the top of their game perhaps they shouldn’t have been their in the first place. Now to relate this to theory one. It argues that college is a system to sort out the best from everyone else. Menand of course is speaking of academics, but why not apply it to athletics? The top players come from all across the country and may have been playing against others whose skill level is far beneath theirs. College could also be used as a sorting system for athletes to see how they shape up against other top players in the country. Lastly I would like to add that top athletes who would have the ability to enter the NBA right after high school probably would not suffer debt from attending college, as they would most likely get scholarships. I wouldn’t say athletes have to attend college before entering the NBA draft but being restricted until they are 19 is a perfectly reasonable policy.


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