With the 5th pick of the 1995 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select Kevin Garnett, forward from Farragut Academy HS, Chicago, Illinois.
And with that our modern day shape of basketball was changed as for the first time in 20 years a high schooler was drafted. Garnett would go onto become a 15 time All-Star, 4 time All-NBA 1st Teamer, 2008 Defensive Player of the Year and the 2003 NBA MVP. With the selection of Kobe Bryant and Jermaine O’Neal the following season,two people you may have heard of, the era of high school kids skipping college began.
I think back to an article Steve Kerr wrote about this rule of having to wait a year upon graduating high school to enter the NBA Draft. He had two quick stories, one was about a young player who was shocked they didn’t get to go home for Christmas, the other was about this one new guy who didn’t know what a best of 5 series was.
And that’s the thing about this rule, it’s not that these guys physically and talent wise are not NBA ready, it’s that mentally they are usually far off from being ready to play professional sports.
You know in life you grow up in stages, the first is high school, when you begin to actually take on some responsibilities while still being in that bubble of protection from your parents and school environment. Then college is when you become your own person really, yet still usually have that kind of parental support to fall back on.
Being a person in their early 20s, most sports fans can relate to these guys who want to go to the NBA, but at the same time you think back about where you were when you just got out of high school.
My first semester of college was awful, I barely paid attention, the effort was minimal, and I worked small hours doing an easy job. However I grew up, got a much better job, and started bringing home good grades, and eventually matured into a productive adult. Yet that’s small potatoes compared to what these kids have to do, playing an 82 game schedule against grown men with years, if not decades of experience.
Then there is the traveling across country from October to April at the very least, sometimes all the way through mid June, while being hounded by media personnel constantly. And then there’s dealing with your contract, dealing with agents, old friends who have a great new “business plan”, and most of all family back home who wants some cash their way.
Say what you will about college, but the schedule of 15 credit hours and 30 basketball games is the perfect workload needed to instill proper discipline for these 18 year olds, and that discipline is what you need to properly handle adversity through the fame and fortune a pro career has to offer.
The best thing about the one and done rule is it seems to be producing a more NBA-ready class, improving league play.
Kevin Durant exploded onto the stage immediately ready to take over, averaging 20.3 a game, numbers that only LeBron could equal to in his rookie season compared to the other prep-to-one and done and the modern basketball player pro greats. KG went 10 & 6 a game, Kobe averaged just 7.6 PPG and Dwight Howard averaged just 12PPG and 10 rebounds a game. Derrick Rose, another one and done player, in his first year averaged 17PPG, 6.3 APG and 4 RPG, Westbrook that season also averaged 15.3 PPG and then 5 rebounds and assists per game as well.
Then you’ve got John Wall who could have easily left high school to the pros if he wanted in the days before the rule existed, put up tremendous numbers at Kentucky, before going to the NBA and averaging 16.4 PPG and 8.3 APG in his first year at Washington.
Listen I could keep going, listing player after player since 2006 that has made a big immediate impact, but I think you get the point. It’s that simply the best players have been made even better by that one year of college, to see a rookie come in and put up terrific numbers isn’t shocking anymore, yet during the prep-to-pro era we saw years of a weaker rookie crop that took a few years to get going. I mean athletes aren’t going to hit a solid stride anyways until maybe 20 or 21 at the earliest, what’s wrong with an extra year of development before going into the pros?
From the age of 16 to 19 my golf averages for 18 holes were 98, 86, 82 & 78. The reason for this is simple: it doesn’t matter who you are and what level you play sports at because as you get older your body fills out, and the way you think while you play changes. John Wall said it best by stating that, “I think college … on and off the court, made me become the best person”, and when you look at it, most of these guys who played a year in college haven’t had the maturity issues guys like LeBron, Kobe and Dwight Howard have had.
Everyone who played with Kobe essentially wound up hating him it seems, Dwight has had nothing but drama the last few years with how poorly he handled the Orlando situation, and now his failure to re-sign in LA. And then LeBron basically gave the city of Cleveland the finger on basic cable by “taking his talents to South Beach”.
This rule does have tons of controversy, I get that, but the NBA is a company so who are we to question this? I mean we all have had a job, and to get that job you have to meet a certain set of requirements listed by the company you’re applying to. I wouldn’t be writing this column unless I didn’t have previous writing and reporting experience. So my question is why can’t the NBA have a certain requirement on the level of experience needed to get employment with them? And who are we to judge a company who wants their future employees to develop another year, mature another year, and do it all off the payroll in the NCAA or other foreign leagues.
I know we all love the NBA, so who’s really got a problem with a better brand of athletes and basketball? That seems to have been and forever be the multi-million dollar question.