Skip to content

David Stern takes a shot at the NCAA when asked about “one and done” players in college basketball

Mar 28, 2012, 3:28 AM EDT

NBA All-Star Weekend Getty Images

David Stern has some ideas about how to solve the problem of so-called “one and done” players at the college level — you know, guys who go to school for just one year simply because the NBA’s age limit makes it impossible to declare for the draft straight out of high school. But they aren’t necessarily serious, and they aren’t necessarily ideas that the NCAA might want to hear.

Speaking in Phoenix before the Suns faced the Spurs on Tuesday, Stern took some playful shots at the NCAA when the topic of these “one and done” players came up. He essentially put the onus on the schools for making sure the players keep their ends of the bargain where classes and scholarships are concerned.

“A college could always not have players who are one and done,” Stern said. “They could do that. They could actually require the players to go to classes.

“Or they could get the players to agree that they stay in school, and ask for their scholarship money back if they didn’t fulfill their promises. There’s all kinds of things that, if a bunch of people got together and really wanted to do it, instead of talk about it …”

At this point in the discussion, deputy commissioner Adam Silver made a face that seemed to say, “I wish he hadn’t said that.” But Stern was largely light-hearted in his suggestions, and talked bigger picture about young players whose primary goal is to secure a place in the NBA.

“Years ago, I said to the NCAA, I’ve got a great idea,” he said. ‘We’ll insure a select group of basketball players. And that will make them more likely to stay in school, because they won’t feel the loss of a big contract. We’ll designate a pool, and those that are lucky enough to be drafted and make money will pay us back, and those that don’t, it’s our expense. The NCAA I think took it to a committee, that takes it to a census, that took it to a conference, then they have a congress and they came back to me and they said, well, it will only work under our rules if we do that for all sports. And I said, I don’t think that’ll work.”

But what would work, at least for the NBA, is a longer period of time to evaluate talent at the college level.

“I agree with the NCAA that it would be great for us — I’m not concerned about NCAA, and our rules are not social programs,” Stern said. “We don’t think it’s appropriate for us to lecture kids as to whether they should or shouldn’t go to school. For our business purposes, the longer we can get to look at young men playing against first-rate competition, that’s a good thing. Because draft picks are very valuable things.

“For the young men we say, you can go to college,” Stern continued. “You can play in the NBA Development League, (as an 18-year old), or you can go to Europe. And we’ve had players go to the D-League and be drafted, we’ve had players go to Europe and be drafted, and we’ve had players go to college. For us, it’s one more year. We proposed to the players two more, and it was sufficiently contentious around that. We agreed, as all good negotiators do, we referred it to a sub-committee and we’re going to have meetings about it to see how that works out. ”

Stern and Silver were careful to point out that they have an excellent relationship with NCAA president Mark Emmert, and again, even the shots came with big smiles and laughs all around. But it’s clear that Stern believes the “one and done” problem is an NCAA-only issue, and it isn’t one that he seems to have any interest in helping to solve at any point in the immediate future.

  1. eugenesaxe - Mar 28, 2012 at 5:19 AM

    “Or they could get the players to agree that they stay in school, and ask for their scholarship money back if they didn’t fulfill their promises.”

    I like that. They should do the same to college coaches who leave early.

    • deadeyedesign23 - Mar 28, 2012 at 8:48 AM

      What’re you going to take back the 10,000 they get in scholarship money when they’re set to make hundreds of thousands if not millions in the draft?

      Frankly they should be able to go right out of highschool You shouldn’t prevent people who are capable of becoming millionaires from doing so. What if someone like LeBron had to go to college and he destroyed his knee which ended his career. He would have essentially been prohibited form becoming a millionaire.

      And honestly how bad is it to go straight out of high school? Even if they fall out of the league they tend to find other good work. Either in Europe or with the Harlem Globe Trotters and stuff. I know that sounds ridiculous, but they’d be getting paid more money than most people here to play basketball. I’d rather have that than some marketing degree that I was forced to get.

      • tcclark - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:59 AM

        The downfall of the NBA started when players started going right from high school to the pros in 1995. Before then only 3 players had ever gone straight to the NBA from HS: Reggie Harding, Darryl Dawkins, and Bill Willoughby. When players started forgoing school, the quality of the NBA game declined. Players need a chance to develop and mature in school. The Center position particularly needs that time to develop and this one and done system is the position in the NBA.

        Between 1983 and 1987, 5 centers were drafted first overall:
        Ralph Sampson – 4 years at UCLA
        Hakeen Olajuwon – 4 Years at Houston (redshirt junior)
        Patrick Ewing – 4 years at Georgetown
        Brad Daugherty – 4 years at UNC
        David Robinson – 4 years at Navy

        Brad Daugherty was the worst out of the 5 of them despite being a 20 and 10 player for much of his career and an all-star in 5 of his 8 NBA seasons.

        Since 1995, 7 Centers have been taken first overall
        Tim Duncan – 4 years at Wake Forest
        Michael Olowokandi – 2 years at Brunel University in London, 2 years at Pacific
        Kwame Brown – HS
        Yao Ming – 5 Years of Pro Ball in China
        Dwight Howard – HS
        Andrew Bogut – 2 years at Utah
        Greg Oden – 1 year at Ohio State

        Dwight Howard is the only anomaly, but he gets by on shear size and strength against the low quality NBA centers out there. Duncan was a much more polished player coming out of Wake Forest, having played there for 4 years. I can also through out players like Eddy Curry, Hasheem Thabeet, DeSagana Diop, Stromile Swift, and Brandan Wright, who were also top ten flops that didn’t give themselves time to develop. The NBA needs to fix this problem or the quality of the game will get worse.

      • limonadamas - Mar 28, 2012 at 1:36 PM

        @tcclark: Using the center position to gauge the quality of the league is pretty arbitrary. The game and its rules have evolved a lot over the past 20 years, so you can’t pin the lack of traditional post players solely on kids coming straight out of HS. Most of the complete busts that come straight out of HS only stay in the league for a handful of years anyway. Even Kwame Brown has one NBA-level skill (one-on-one post defense). If anything has decreased the “quality of the NBA” over the past 20 years, it’s been overexpansion.

        Stern’s right about one thing though.. it’s to the NBA’s advantage to keep a lot of these guys in college (free advertising/exposure and better opportunity to scout).

      • tcclark - Mar 28, 2012 at 2:13 PM

        The center position was mearly one example, but an important one at that. The fall of the position in the NBA has coincided with the fall of the league. 15 of the 50 greatest players of all-time came from the center position and many of the NBA’s biggest stars were centers. Centers are notoriously slow developers. They need the time to mature and grow into their bodies. They also have to develop their game if they are going to play against better competition in the NBA. The talent level hasn’t gone down in the past 20 years, but the motivation to work has. these centers see their chance at a payday and run with it, but miss out on becoming stars.

        As for the rules, yes, there have been rule changes, but if anything they should only help them on the offensive end. Hand check rules and defensive 3 second violations, only help centers in the post up game. The problem is the lack of quality players at the position. Tyson Chandler could be the 3rd best center in the NBA while only averaging 11 points a game. The position is at an all-time low.

        Over-expansion could have been a problem, but the league grew as popularity grew. Great athletes began playing basketball instead of football or baseball, so there should have been an increase of quality players as well. We’ve seen a growth in the number of quality college basketball programs so it’s safe to say that the number of college basketball stars is on the rise, but these stars aren’t staying long enough to develop their games into what they ultimately could be.

        If you want another example, i could go on about the lack of quality shooters in the league, and how players need to develop a jump shot in college before coming to the NBA.

      • limonadamas - Mar 28, 2012 at 4:30 PM

        @tcclark: Interesting perspective. Not sure if I agree 100%, but thanks for taking the time and sharing! If we’re talking decline in skills, I would probably blame AAU ball more than one-and-done, but that’s just me.

      • tcunningha1 - Apr 3, 2012 at 1:41 PM

        Greg Oden’s career has been lost due to injuries. Going to college for 4 years would not have made his body any less injury prone.

        Kwame Brown and Michael Olowokandi would not have been top tier centers had they gone to college. Both picks were reaches to say the least, teams taking a center too high based on wishful thinking. Apparently Jordan’s 3 years in college didn’t make him much of a talent evaluator, that’s why the Bobcats are the worst team in the NBA. And the Clippers were a notoriously poorly run franchise for decades. It isn’t a lack of college that made these franchise take bad draft choices. There just haven’t been many elite centers come up in the last decade, and two of the ones who should have been elite, dominant, centers, have had their careers cut short due to injury (Yao, Oden). Andrew Bynum is one of the elite centers in the league, with excellent fundamentals, very strong defensively, a very good passer out of double teams, and he came into the NBA at *17*. Your argument is a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.

        College is not a necessity for developing basketball skills. How many players in the league have as good of fundamentals as Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, or Dirk Nowitzki? All of them started playing professionally at a very young age.

        Why don’t we talk about point guards? The point guard position in the NBA has never been this strong. There a lot of elite point guards and is the position extremely deep as well. Rondo, Deron Williams, Westbrook, Paul, Rose, Rubio, Kyrie Irving, Nash, Parker etc. This is a golden age for point guards in the NBA.

        As for rule changes supposedly helping centers, you didn’t mention the zone.

        ”If you guys could change one rule in the League, what would it be?”

        Kevin Garnett: No zone.
        Tim Duncan : Yeah, the zone.
        Kevin Garnett: If there was one rule I could change today, it would be the zone.
        Kevin Garnett: I think it puts players that are really good at a disadvantage, so to speak. Everybody here gets double-teams, if not triple-teams, so we can all speak on this. But it sorta—I remember Phoenix sat somebody literally right there [in the lane].
        Tim Duncan: It makes it hard for all of us.

        2001, Shaquille O’neal:

        “Stinks,” the Los Angeles star said. “I have a lot to say, but not now.

        The zone rules make it much harder for post players.

        Finally, the part about a lack of shooters is just not true. Effective FG% is higher than it has ever been. 3 point percentage is higher than it has ever been, and 2 point percentage has remained pretty constant, despite less post play, less fouls and free throws, and a slower pace in recent times.

        The quality of play in the NBA dipped somewhat in the late 90s and early 2000s, but the talent pool has increased to keep up with expansion. There is no downfall of the NBA, the level of play in the NBA is very high right now. The level of play in college, on the other hand, is really poor right now. The one and done rule hurts college, not the NBA.

    • nocalhusker - Mar 31, 2012 at 3:01 AM

      Have you heard of a buyout clause??? Most schools that lose a coach to another school or pro franchise receive some sort of compensation for terminating the contract early.

  2. limonadamas - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:07 AM

    The NCAA is the most hypocritical sports organization in the US. They won’t tighten academic standards on their athletes because the athletes bring in too much money for them. So on the one hand, they benefit tremendously financially, and on the other hand, they chastise the players for taking handouts in the name of “amateurism.” The following article is a must-read:

    • tcclark - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:24 AM

      The NCAA is a non-profit organization. There’s no one sitting there pocketing all of their money. All of the money they earn has to be put back into the organization. Do some people see financial gains through the form of salary increases and better benefits? Sure. But you’re making it seem like the NCAA is out there using these players to get rich, which by law it can’t.

      • theonlysaneblazerfan - Mar 28, 2012 at 12:34 PM

        If you actually believe that the NCAA is a non-profit in any actual, practical sense you are completely naive. Just look at the recent scandals involving the BCS bowl games.

      • tcclark - Mar 28, 2012 at 1:39 PM

        The NCAA is an organization that encompasses almost 1300 institutions and organizations, each with their own set of employees. The chances of corruption or scandal within an organization that large is 100%. With that being said, the NCAA is still a non-profit organization. In order to be considered “non-profit” a company must use surplus revenue to achieve their goals instead of distributing it in the form of profit or dividends. The NCAA doesn’t “benefit tremendously financially.” The money is dispersed among the 1300 institutions, which use the money to help build newer facilities, both athletic and non-athletic, like student centers, dining halls, and student health services facilities. It is also used to pay for employee salaries for people like the basketball coach, which NCAA fans don’t usually mind, considering a better coach usually brings about a better team and thus a better college experience for the students. All of this, by the way, saves tax payers from having to fork over more money to public universities.

        Is there corruption in the NCAA? Yes. Of course their is. But the fact of the matter is, the money goes to the 1300 institutions. NCAA officials make a yearly salary, and make the same yearly salary whether players are one and done or not. No one is taking home extra money in the form of profits or dividends, because if they did the IRS would have come down on them hard one of the numerous times the NCAA has been accused of operating as a for-profit organization.

      • KIR - Mar 28, 2012 at 2:02 PM

        Anytime you have coaches making millions of dollars you’re no longer non for profit. As a matter of fact. If they were a traditional NFP and paying salaries of millions of dollars they’d be questioned by the states attorney general and sued by donors.

      • tcclark - Mar 28, 2012 at 2:19 PM

        The NCAA isn’t paying coaches millions of dollars. Universities are paying coaches millions of dollars with the goal being to improve the athletic and educational quality of the university. Good students often choose schools with good athletic programs over poor athletic programs. One of the main reasons I chose to go to college where i did was because of the athletic program and I’m sure i’m not the only one of you that did (at least those of you who aren’t 13 and think Lebron is better than Jordan)

      • eugenesaxe - Mar 28, 2012 at 10:33 PM

        “which by law it can’t.”

        Lotsa things are against the law. Use enough money to hire enough lawyers to find/exploit all the loopholes, Microsoft could classify itself “non-profit”.

  3. dacapt704 - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:13 AM

    No one cares about the swimmer or soccer player or tennis player who doesnt go to college so why is the NBA any different? Although I do wish more kids would stay just bc it will make the NBA product better I still don’t believe in restricting their choice.

    After all, there is NOTHING that makes these GMs draft high school kids right? Exactly…they have the right NOT to draft them, maybe that would be the hard lesson that some kids need to see in order to make their butts go to school and actually develop a real game. Most of these all americans are just the best player in their city/region so we dont know how good they will be against others of similar talent level.

    my 2cents

    • deadeyedesign23 - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:14 PM

      I agree that it makes the NBA a better product, but that we shouldn’t restrict their choice. That said having the GMs just not draft them will never happen. If the GMs all got together and decided not to draft any player who was 1 and done it would be collusion and as long there’s not an agreement someone will always take them. Because if you don’t take the next Carmelo or Dwight Howard someone else will.

  4. qdog112 - Mar 28, 2012 at 12:11 PM

    “For our business purposes, the longer we can get to look at young men playing against first-rate competition, that’s a good thing. Because draft picks are very valuable things.”
    Why would Stern wanna do anything to disturb his cash cow of a business model. MLB has to pay for its farm system, while the NFL and NBA have the NCAA providing players at no cost. The NCAA is as much a business as the NBA and basically they have no overhead expenses, like salaries to players to worry about. I’d say they are both pretty satisfied partners. Any show of discomfort is just for show. Everyone in the NCAA hierarchy gets paid, but the labor (the players who generate the revenue).

    Imagine a business where the greatest expense of payroll, doesn’t exist. For the NCAA, classes is not an issue, keeping a quality product is.

  5. pbanach01 - Mar 28, 2012 at 12:58 PM

    Stern is ridiculous. He created this problem!

  6. KIR - Mar 28, 2012 at 1:58 PM

    Telling a guy to pay back a scholarship when he’s made the university and his coach millions of dollars is laughable at best. Two years IMO would be good if they insure these guys.

    • tcclark - Mar 28, 2012 at 2:23 PM

      I want it to be 3 like in the NFL, but i’d settle for baseballs system (even though i hate players coming out of HS). I think out of HS or 3 years in college would work because eventually only the super talented would come out of HS, because the quality of the college players would increase so much that HS players would be more in danger of going undrafted.

  7. ndrocks2 - Mar 28, 2012 at 2:48 PM

    what difference does it make? free enterprise system at it’s best let them leave after the 1st qt if they want. do you think john c was worried about it at memphis or is at kentucky? if the president of the university and it’s board are ok with it (and obviously they are) so be it. until that is when the ncaa comes snooping around john c at kentucky like they have at every school he has coached. live large while you can right johnny c…

  8. glink123 - Mar 28, 2012 at 10:23 PM

    NCAA President Mark Emmert won’t disclose his salary, but it is believed to be in excess of $2 million annually. The NCAA also has 14 vice-presidents, who all make in excess of $400,000 annually. The March Madness Basketball tournament generates more the $16 billion dollars annually, which accounts for nearly 90 percent of the NCAA’s entire annual budget.

  9. farvite - Mar 29, 2012 at 1:31 AM

    No Stern ideas can be called good after abandoning two of the wealthiest markets in North America.

  10. kingofbmore - Mar 29, 2012 at 8:05 AM

    The way the NBA and college could resolve the one and done players is to utilize the D-league the way baseball uses the minor leagues. If you think a player has the potential to be a great player but is not ready for the show send him to the d-league and let them mature. That will ensure players that want to go to college will and those that don’t won’t go and waste a scholarship.

    Get your Portable ID!

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. D. Rose (2640)
  2. K. Irving (2065)
  3. L. James (1732)
  4. A. Davis (1731)
  5. K. Bryant (1660)