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June 23 - Hey, Nineteen

"I really don't think that rule is fair because if you look at the greats in the NBA like Tracy McGrady, Kobe
Bryant, LeBron [James], Jermaine O'Neal, those guys came directly out of high school.   LeBron had no
problem adjusting to the NBA."

Georgia high school basketball player Javaris Crittenton uttered those words.  However, they hold no
candle to the gem he uttered next.

"If I have to go to school, I have to go to school."

Indiana basketball star Greg Oden’s mother, Zoe, also could not resist weighing in.

"I'm teed off because I just don't understand what they're trying to prove or what this will accomplish.  
This means that Greg is held back a year. . . . The option has been taken from him. I don't think that's
right. I'm not happy."

I would humbly offer my own quote to counter the two above.

“Who cares?”

The furor over the age limit in the NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement figures to only gain
steam as the days and weeks progress, and we will grow more and more likely to hear the same tired
“but LeBron did it” and “but Kevin Garnett did it” arguments from high schoolers and their “I’m just trying
to support my son’s dream” parents.

The new limit states that a player is not draft-eligible until one year after his high school class
graduates.  The blood – errr, ink – had hardly dried on the deal before sports talk hosts began
wondering aloud who would be the first to challenge the ruling, and opining about the NBA throwing
these kids under the bus to get other concessions in the agreement.

Sure, LeBron, KG, Jermaine O’Neal and the like were all successful without ever having attended a
college course.  However, let’s be realistic.  For every Kobe, there is a Leon Smith, a Chicago high-
school star who went from “can’t miss” to “can’t stick” in a few short years.  Smith was 6’10”, and had all
of the projectable skills NBA scouts love.  Those skills were parlayed into career highs of 6 points, 5
rebounds, and 19 minutes played.  The high school player being allowed to enter the NBA draft has
created a sense of entitlement that has permeated America’s playgrounds, high school gymnasiums,
and now, apparently, its culture.

Let the screaming and gnashing of teeth begin.  Many Johnny Basketballstars and their parents across
America will now follow Crittenton and Oden’s leads, and lament to the media about how they are being
denied their Constitutional rights, how unfair it is that they have to – gasp – wait a year before earning
their guaranteed NBA millions, whether or not they ever leave an NBA bench or an NBDL city in which
500 people watch them play, and how they are being “forced” to actually try in the classroom so they can
get their one year of college basketball before heading to the NBA.

What these players fail to realize is that their ilk is at least partially responsible for the current downward
trend of the NBA.  TV ratings are down, as Eric Mirlis has
previously illustrated, and general interest
outside of playoff cities appears to be at its lowest in years.  Many opine on various contributing factors
to this lack of interest, but it cannot be ignored that the game is suffering from players who have yet to
complete their basketball education.  

If a player wants to challenge this ruling, let him do so.  If he sits out a year instead of going to college
so he can “prove a point”, that’s fine, too.  

There will never be a shortage of CSI  reruns.