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Kareem thinks the NBA age limit should be 21

May 13, 2010, 8:53 AM EDT

AbdulJabbar.jpgRight now, you have to be 19 to be drafted into the NBA (your high school graduating class has to be one year removed plus you need to be 19 by the end of the year). David Stern has suggested that he’d like to see that number at 20.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar says he’d like it to be 21. Associated Press has the quote:

“They get precocious kids from high school who think they’re rock stars — ‘Where’s my $30 million?’ ” said Abdul-Jabbar, who was in Omaha to speak at the B’nai B’rith sports banquet. “The attitudes have changed, and the game has suffered because of that, and it has certainly hurt the college game.”

Let’s remember the system Abdul-Jabbar came out of: When he got to UCLA, NCAA rules did not allow him to play as a freshman. (Which led to legendary games between UCLA’s freshman and varsity teams.) He played until he was a senior, and then went to the NBA (where he won six titles, six MVPs and became the sports all time leading scorer).

The question has always been — why should LeBron James or Kobe Bryant or Dwight Howard or Kevin Garnet be forced to spend a year in college if they have the game to be in the NBA? Isn’t it the American way that if you can do the job you deserve a chance?

But the NBA’s decision was about money and marketing. Always is. First, a year in college allows the general public to learn about these players and create some marketing buzz. Hard core hoops junkies knew who John Wall was before he went to Kentucky this year, but most people didn’t. Now he comes in a name product people have seen play.

Second, the age limit protects the owners from themselves. The problem was never the LeBrons or Kobes, it was the guys with potential that teams drafted out of high school that never panned out. Teams felt pressure to take potential stars for fear of missing out on the next big thing, but if they didn’t pan out that was a lot of money thrown away. David Stern works or the owners, don’t forget that.

Abdul-Jabbar thinks the system was pretty good when he came up, and we should go back to something closer to that. Even if that flies in the face of basic American principles.

  1. Paul in KY - May 13, 2010 at 12:50 PM

    It will never happen, but I wish Kareem’s suggestions were instituted. I do think both the pro & college game would be improved.
    College basketball is not what it was back in early 90s & late 80s. Just from a selfish ‘fan’ perspective, I wish all the players had to do at least 3 years in college. Marketingwise, it would also help the NBA, as casual fans would be more aware of these players & would be more inclined to follow them with their NBA team.

  2. henderson cooper - May 13, 2010 at 1:03 PM

    i think that Kareem has hit the mark. i too went to ucla, graduating in 1973. times were glorious then. college sport was at its greatest. today, the kids leave fast, if they go at all, colleges suffer. plus, kids going into the pros are not adults and are forced into an adult world that they, particularly inner city schools,are not prepared for. bling was discovered with the advent of the kid millionaires from the record industry and sports. what happened to the value of education and cultural growth. making mature decisions comes from these two venues, not from a basketball court.
    the american way is changing, it is going down hill. we import more than we export, we dont educate are kids, and we think that the future is great, i think not.
    think of the future, not the next game. get the priorities right.

  3. Tobias - May 15, 2010 at 4:31 PM

    Dear KAJ
    Just remember that Magic Johnson was 19 when he was drafted into the NBA. By applying that rule you wouldn’t have all those rings in your fingers right now.

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