In 2006, the National Basketball Association implemented a rule banning players from going straight to the NBA from high school. The NBA requires that in order to be eligible for their draft, a player must be one year removed from his high school graduation. This senseless rule has forced superb high school basketball players to go to college for a meaningless semester rather than make millions right out of high school. The “one and done” rule is ridiculous and is not only hurting the athletes who are talented and skilled enough to play at the highest level, but it is also hurting the college game.
College basketball has its fair share of problems, and many of them stem from the “one and done” rule. No one questions that college coaches are very important, but they have become the focal point of college basketball. Many fans know Mike Kryzewski, better known as Coach “K,” Jim Boeheim, and Tom Izzo, but are unable to name a single player on their respective teams in a given year. This should not be the case. It should be about the players, but the “one and done” rule leads to drastically different rosters year-to- year, so the fans become familiar with the constant: the coach.
This rule is also significantly diminishing the product on the court in college basketball. This seems counterintuitive. If players talented enough to play in the NBA are being forced to play college basketball, one would think the college game would be better, but it is in fact worse. The college game is gradually eroding. Each year since 2006, the product has deteriorated. It may be hard to tell with the naked eye, but if you were to go back and watch college basketball circa 2006 and then compare it to college basketball this year, I guarantee most fans would not even be able to comprehend the changes that have taken place. The level of competition and fluidity with which the game has been played has been dramatically declining over this span.
My theory as to why major college basketball has been heading downhill is two-part and can be directly related to the “one and done” rule. College teams lack chemistry. Due to the radical changes on rosters and personnel from year to year it is very challenging for teams to develop the chemistry needed to play a high level of basketball. Prior to the “one and done” rule being implemented, teammates played with one another usually for four years. A greater level of chemistry can be formed amongst teammates over four years, as it was prior to 2006, rather than over the span of just one season, as it has been since. Good chemistry breeds a better product on the court and a better product makes it more enjoyable for the fans to watch. Right now, college basketball is essentially televised pickup games. This leads me to my next point, pickup games. To the players who could have gone right to the NBA from high-school, these collegiate games mean very little. They view their one season of college basketball as a stepping-stone on their journey to the NBA. The NBA bound “one and done” players tend to play more selfishly. They try to prove their worth to people scouting them for the next level, rather than play a team-oriented game. College basketball is the only sport in which the best players do not really even want to be there. It is a peculiar dynamic that does not need to be a part of the college game.
Even though I disagree with it, I understand why the NBA has the “one and done” rule. They are afraid that a bunch of delusional high school basketball players will enter themselves into the NBA Draft when they are not ready for that level of competition. Basketball is very different from football. In football, the NFL requires three years of collegiate competition before an athlete is eligible to compete in the NFL. That is because football is such a physical sport that an eighteen-year-old kid right out of high school would get physically dominated by the men in the NFL. The NBA is a much different type of game. Players coming straight from high school have shown that they are capable to not only play in the NBA, but to thrive in the NBA. Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Dwight Howard are just some of the former and current NBA superstars who never went to college. They came right out of high school and flourished into perennial NBA All-Stars.
College basketball needs its game to be lifted and the NBA desires its product to be played at an ultra-high level. There is a system that can make both of these a reality. The system would look something like this: A player could enter the NBA Draft right out of high school. If he were to be selected by an organization, then he is free to play in the NBA. If he enters the draft and is not selected, he must go to college for a minimum of three years. This is very similar to how the professional baseball draft operates. This three-year period will not only benefit him, as he is honing his skills for the next level, but will also help college basketball. Teams will develop a sense of camaraderie and cohesiveness. This chemistry will strengthen the college game and make it more appealing to a national audience.