The National Basketball Association (NBA) has officially submitted a proposal to the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) to lower the draft-eligible age to 18 years old from 19. This proposal would effectively eliminate the “one-and-done” policy, which forces the game’s most elite players to attend college for one season prior to declaring for the NBA Draft.
An anonymous individual with insider knowledge of the negotiations first reported the story to USA Today and the Associated Press Thursday afternoon. The timing of the story caused many to speculate the proposal may have come as a reaction to the horrific injury of Duke Power Forward Zion Williamson Wednesday evening, however, the source stated the proposal was submitted by the League during the NBA All-Star Break and was unrelated to the star’s unfortunate injury.
Related or not, the timing of the injury has only re-ignited pre-existing discussions and criticisms of the rule and its effect on college basketball players. In the wake of Wednesday night’s drama, many NBA superstars expressed support for Williamson, with some taking the opportunity to reflect and further criticize the potential realities for the projected No. 1 NBA Draft Pick and NPOY, had the injury been worse. Most notable amongst these comments, University of Kentucky alum and Golden State Warriors’ Center, Demarcus “Boogie” Cousins stated in an interview Thursday “knowing what I know now, college basketball, the NCAA, is bulls**t… it does nothing for you…you’ve proved yourself”, before concluding with remarks advising Williamson to get ready for the NBA. Embodied within these comments is the sentiment shared by many NBA players, officials and fans alike, college basketball forces would-be professional athletes to endure a year of unpaid work and run the risk of a career-ending injury.
The negotiations between the NBA and NBPA had been foreshadowed by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver for quite some time. He has been vocal about his dissatisfaction with and opposition to the “one-and-done” rule since July 2018, when following a series of Owner’s meetings he stated “my personal view is that we’re ready to make that change”, in reference to the rule. “It won’t come immediately, but… when I weighed the pros and cons… [and] given that Condoleezza Rice and her commission has recommended to the NBA that those one-and-done players come directly into the league and, in essence, the college community is saying ‘we do not want those players anymore’, I mean that sort of tips the scale in my mind that we should be taking a serious look at lowering our age to 18.”
The one-and-done rule has been in place since 2006, when the NBA made the move in an attempt to prevent “unripe players” from entering the league directly out of high school. At its outset, the rule was quite popular and highly regarded by the likes of Adam Silver. Yet, in recent years, as increased scrutiny has fallen upon both the ethics of college basketball (and institutionalized amateur sports overall) and the rule itself, there has been increasing will to reconsider the age limit.
Ultimately, the issue must be collectively bargained by the NBA and NBPA, with both sides agreeing to the rule change prior to its ratification. Current reports indicate that any agreed upon changes would not go into effect until the 2022 draft, both to give NBA teams ample time to prepare for the change and to allow college programs to prepare for what is sure to be a massively impactful change to the NCAA basketball landscape. However, this is not to suggest that a deal is equally as far off; many suspect that a deal, or at least its framework, will be officially agreed upon within the coming months.