The NCAA's one-and-done problem is the NBA's fault
The One and Done era is a timeframe in which no entity, organization or person wants to take credit for. No one wants to take credit for 17 & 18- year-old basketball players in America not being allowed to make an honest living for themselves and their families. When it is worded like that, it sounds worse than the NBA wanting their players to be a year removed from high school to enter their league.
Lots of people have thrown blame on everyone for this rule that the NBA instituted in 2006; agents, the NCAA (whom I love blaming for just about everything but this is not that time) and even the media. Unfortunately, the blame lies with none of them but with, surprise surprise, the NBA. More specifically, the front offices of all 30 teams in the NBA.
In the spring of 1995, pre-social media, there was a rumor that a high school senior out of Farragut Academy in Chicago was going to enter the NBA Draft. Prep hoops back then was not the money hype machine that it is today so high school players weren’t big celebrities like they are today (see Williamson, Zion.). No one nationally had heard of this kid but thanks to these rumors, Kevin Garnett was starting to become a known name.
Garnett would not be the first player to go from high school to the NBA, as Moses Malone had that distinction in 1974, but he would be the first to make the leap in over 20 years. The Minnesota Timberwolves took a risk by drafting Garnett fifth overall in the 1995 NBA Draft but that risk soon paid off as he made his first All-Star team in only second season and looked to be the next evolution at the power forward position.
You may have heard in reference to all professional leagues that “it’s a copycat league”. That definitely fit the NBA from 1995-2005 when, due to the arrogance of the NBA front office execs they ushered in the One-and-Done era that required a basketball player to be one year removed from high school before they can declare for the draft.
Yes, the Timberwolves struck gold with Garnett in 1995, the Lakers did the same in trading for a young Kobe Bryant on draft night in 1996, the Raptors unearthed a diamond in the rough with Tracy McGrady in 1997 and in 2003, drafting LeBron was a no-brainer for any team, especially for the home state Cleveland Cavaliers. The problem with those success stories during the decade is that NBA execs kept trying to recreate that by drafting high school players at a rapid rate who did not come close to the measurables of the prior four.
See, the problem isn’t that high school players entered the draft, the problem that they were drafted in hopes of being the next KG or Kobe or T-Mac or LeBron; or even the next Dwight Howard, JR Smith or Al Jefferson. But they won’t get someone else in another player, they won’t even get the second coming of another player; however that will not stop them from drafting a high school player high.
Think back to when you were 17 or 18 and the mindset you had. Now imagine one of the biggest organizations or companies in the world notices your talent and offers to make you an instant millionaire to work for them. You will have $10 million dollars in your bank account before you turn 21. The only catch with the job because, of course there’s a catch, is that you have to be the face of the company, improve rapidly, mature much sooner than you’re expected to and don’t do anything to embarrass the company even though you’re a kid. If that catch isn’t met, no big deal, your contract won’t be renewed and you’ll be seen as a bust and your ability to be hired elsewhere will be spotty at best. Sounds pretty unfair to me.
That is exactly what high school players are asked to do when they are drafted into the NBA, especially if they’re drafted in the lottery. Drafting an athlete into your league is risky no matter their age and background. Drafting an athlete that has experience, assumed maturity and has seen ups and downs throughout a brief career is a safer bet than a teenager that can jump high. Be smarter NBA execs and remove your ego. High school basketball players should be able to enter the NBA Draft and be afforded the opportunity to provide for themselves and their family. Doesn’t mean they should have the weight of the world on their shoulders.