Too young for the NBA?
Is the NBA’s age requirement justifiable?
Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights, has an interesting op-ed in the New York Times arguing that the National Basketball Association should repeal its 2005 rule prohibiting players from entering the league unless they are 19 years old and a year removed from high school. The NBA’s age eligibility requirements have been the subject of much controversy considering some of the sport’s biggest stars went to the league directly out of high school.
Are these restrictions justifiable?
Nearly everyone can agree that there should be some rule governing age requirements for professional basketball players. After all, we wouldn’t want teams drafting athletic twelve year olds in the hopes that they will mature into the next Kevin Garnett. But where do we draw the line?
Most states consider eighteen to be “the age of majority” which is the “age at which a person is granted the rights and responsibilities of an adult.” Attorney Louis Pechman also points out that many states specifically recognize that once an individual is eighteen he or she can longer be barred employment based on age.
If we recognize eighteen year olds as legal adults capable of accepting responsibility for their persons and decisions, what right do we have to bar them from pursuing a form of employment in which they excel?
On the other hand, we don’t grant individuals full privileges of adulthood immediately when they turn eighteen. For instance, the drinking age is twenty one based on the assumption that those younger are not emotionally or physically ready to appreciate the responsibilities that come with being able to buy and consume alcohol.
Young athletes no doubt face tremendous pressure from scouts and agents to turn professional. And there are numerous cases in which athletes who skipped college either failed to be drafted or were out of the league within a few years. One could see the current rule as allowing players a little more time to emotionally mature before making such a monumental step.
However, one problem with this line of reasoning is that it is unclear exactly what the age requirement accomplishes.
Bissinger points out that studies show that players drafted out of high school perform better than other rookies during their first season, and are no more likely to get into legal trouble than their peers. If we are to bar (even temporarily) adults from employment in any field, we should have tangible evidence to justify our decision, not a set of patronizing intuitions.