Friday, February 14th, 2014 at 12:50 pm  |  28 responses

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Explains Logic of Raising Age Limit to 20

The League is pushing hard to raise the current age limit for first-year players to 20 from 19. It’s a battle that will take place during the negotiation of the next collective bargaining agreement (likely following the 2016-’17 season.) In a wide-ranging chat with USA Today, Commissioner Adam Silver lays out why he thinks it makes sense (financially and basketball-wise) for players to enter the NBA when they’re a bit older:

It’s hard to tell. I never quite understood the player opposition. Of course it’s a zero sum game in terms of numbers of jobs, and amount of salary we pay out. We pay out roughly 50% of BRI (basketball-related income), and that’s divided among the players in the league. So there is absolutely, and by definition can’t be, a financial savings to us by increasing the age to 20. It has been our belief that we have a better chance to grow the (financial) pie that gets divided 50-50 if we increase the age and create, in essence, a more competitive league. And it has been our sense for a long time that our draft would be more competitive if our teams had an opportunity to see these players play an additional year, whether it be in college or professionally in the Development League or overseas.

We believe the additional year of maturity would be meaningful. And increasingly, I’ve been told by many NBA coaches that one of the issues with the younger guys coming into the league is they’ve never had an opportunity to lead. By having come directly out of their first year of college, those are the moments in their lives where…they were put in positions as upper classmen, where they first learned how to lead teammates. And ultimately, if you look at our most successful teams, they’re successful because they play as a team and I think that’s one of the beauties of this game is that it’s such an interesting mix of team play and at the same time individual (skill).

A team plays together with individual attributes. It’s that blend that teams are always constantly trying to achieve, the perfect blend. Again though, it’s one of those issues (where) it needs to be collectively bargained, and for good reason. It’s something that during collective bargaining the last time, we had lots of discussions about it with the group of players who were representing the union at the time and I think it’s something that we should continue to discuss. Let me just throw in that at the same time, I think maybe, just to broaden my horizons a little bit, I’m trying to look at it not just from the perspective of the NBA because I believe strong college basketball is also beneficial to the NBA and to the game generally. So even if it’s not terrible for the NBA right now, at least talking to a lot of my college coaching friends and college (athletic director) friends, their view is (that) one and done is a disaster. I think this is one of these issues that the larger basketball community needs to come together and address, not just the NBA owners and our players. Youth basketball and college basketball should have a seat at the table as well.

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  • shockexchange

    Shock Exchange interpretation, “Because I can …”

  • spit hot fiyah

    ” I never quite understood the player opposition”

    losing out on a year of earnings and delaying your first big contract by one year is a good reason for opposition.

    i think he just explained the logic without using logic

  • neaorin

    His point is that since the total number of NBA roster spots is basically fixed, it’s a zero sum game – that is, a young player getting paid will mean a veteran is going to get cut by some team. Also because of the salary cap the money paid out would follow the same logic.

    Since the NBAPA leadership is mostly vets, you’d think they would be more sensible to this type of argument.

  • http://www.rich-imaging.com/ Dutch Rich

    He makes some really revealing points that I hadn’t heard before regarding the development of leadership. Also “One and Done is a disaster” would make for a powerful slogan. I think it has been a disaster but more so for college ball.
    The reality is that the NCAA and the NBA’s interests are ultimately interwoven. No party will truly be satisfied and something drastic needs to change to the definition of the Student Athlete. But this will be the best scenario in finding a true common ground.
    Additionally, from a fans perceptive, it would be great to have college rivalries based not on lore but on actual top talent going head to head during a minimum of a two year span.
    I’m all for it. But again, some talent have financial drivers that pressure them to go pro. The NCAA needs to make fair adjustments so that these kids don’t end up getting ejected by the system. But they have more viable options today see PJ Hairston. Just as in all other industries there should be a balanced period of paying dues.

  • Sheila Edward

    would make for a powerful slogan. I think it has been a disaster but more so for college ball.

  • Happy

    Maybe the principle of the matter is something they actually care about. Maybe they look at the young guys, and see a chance to give them the same opportunities that they had available at 19 and 20. Purely from a greed standpoint, Silver’s logic makes sense. But let’s leave open the possibility that not everyone has a “I got mine, so f anyone else” attitude. Maybe they don’t see very much honor in walking through doors and closing the doors behind them.

  • Happy

    One & done is a disaster for college basketball. But why should players place the interests of the NCAA money machine above their own interests?
    For whatever reason, our society is content with college sports being an auditioning ground for the pros, and too many fans actually want to keep it this way. Student athletics in the money making sports are shamefully a joke. The most talented players rarely go to school to get an education. The colleges set them up with meaningless, fruitless classes to ensure academic eligibility. In the meantime, a seat in class and a roster spot is being taken from someone who wanted to be there to learn. College sports should be for student-athletes. Real students.

    Instead, the millionaires in the NCAA and university presidents have found a way to make billions using cheap labor. To maintain the facade of the “student-athlete”, they hypocritically penalize players for the silliest of infractions, while the players push products that get their coaches mansions. The system is broken in the most disgusting way, and the NBA and NCAA collude keep it like that. Players risk injury in college while the NCAA makes money. There really is no proven benefit to the NBA, which is why the age minimum should be lowered. The best way to learn the NBA game is in the NBA. If teams don’t think a guy is ready, don’t draft him. It’s that simple.

  • mike

    Very well said HAPPY . Having players stay an extra year or two puts them at risk for injury or if they come from an unstable background…another year of that . And potentially 1 or 2 years less of earning potential.

  • TriggaMan

    Kwame brown ruined it for everybody lol

  • bike

    If the nba GMs and owners could have restrained themselves from grabbing kids based on ‘upside’, ‘potential’, ‘high ceiling’, and fear of losing out to their competition, I’m not sure this would have ever been an issue. Prior to 1985, 4 players made the jump. Between ’84 and ’94 only one HS player was drafted. Then, between ’95 and 2004, 22 HS players got drafted.
    The crap hit the fan after 2005. In two years, about 16 HS kids got drafted and Stern crapped a twinkie. His fear (at least what he said was his fear) was it was sending a bad message to HS kids; too many kids would blow off academics thinking they could just go straight to the nba and F’ college. To some extent, Stern was probably right. This league has always had to put rules in place to protect itself from itself.

  • shockexchange

    The Shock Exchange would tell ya’ll about a book that predicted the NBA would raise the age limit … but ya’ll may accuse him of braggin’. Oh well …

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    Here is the distinction that matters…..
    Is this about what’s best for the NBA as a business? Or is this about what is in the fair interest of the players?
    The rest is just a bunch of excuses to support one of those stances.

  • https://twitter.com/jasontichenor Mr. Wet

    I still think it’s basically two things.

    1. A better chance for NBA Teams to not draft a bust.
    2. A chance to grow the D-League by getting players to go there instead of college.

  • MikeC.

    The NBADL is the remedy. Having a true minor league, with each NBA team owning and controlling its D-League team would allow the NBA teams to take fliers on young guys who aren’t “sure things”. Expand the draft to 4 or 5 rounds so that the “sure things” go in the higher rounds with guaranteed rookie scale salaries, while the lower rounds have lower guaranteed salaries (ex 80k/yr-ish) to play in the D-League. If the D-Leaguers get called up, they get a percent-based salary bump for the games they play in the NBA.
    Much better than the current system of “go play in college for free, while you get a fake education and risk injury so other people can get richer”.
    A true minor league where players get paid to develop and get ready for the L is the answer.

  • http://www.rich-imaging.com/ Dutch Rich

    You can’t ignore those brokering the deals Bike. The wolves of Ball Street. Plus the media hype machine. Those entities go hand in hand.

  • pistol

    I wanna see a special rule that allows teams to draft hs players within the first 5 or 10 picks. that way we could see the next big superstars sooner and if a hs player is not worthy of a top 10 pick they go polish their game for a year or two.

  • 23


  • 23

    2 very good things

  • 23

    Best for the NBA. All companies want to make decisions that are best for business. People just let the wholesome thought of sportsmanship and the rags to riches stories think otherwise.

  • X

    I agree 100%.

  • http://www.sneakertheater.com/ Sneaker Theater

    I remember that “era” basketball was hard to watch. Except for a few teams it was just sad.

  • http://www.sneakertheater.com/ Sneaker Theater

    I would really like the NBA to be a hybrid of the MLB and NFL. A true minor league system that grooms talent and non garunteed and incentived based contracts. This will weed out the real players from the dudes that sign contracts and never develop their games.

  • http://www.rich-imaging.com/ Dutch Rich

    I agree with most of what you’re saying. I don’t think the NBA as a whole is tremendously affected whether they draft em wet or with one or two years of college. This is clearly a much broader issue. My hope is that if the NBA grants the NCAA the luxury to hold on to top tier for an extra year that they can set some conditions towards fixing the broken system.

    I think the injury risk argument is so hypothetical that you can’t really lean on it. We are talking about 19/20 year olds playing essentially a non contact sport. If players want to use this angle then they should be prepared to forfeit the love of the game clause when they become pro. All for the sake of earning potential.
    When you analyze back you can probably trace the exploitation complaints uniquely to the Fab Five during the merchandising boom. Unjust complaints about earnings will lead to Sprewell during massive contract signings. So these are isolated cases spawned by individual greed and or misguidance. This stuff is documented.
    Eliminating college requirements will just bring the corruption and un-monitored exploitation to the highschool and AAU ranks. To younger more un-informed and volnurable kids. We’ve already been there. It was ugly.
    To assume that the college athlete experience is just a one way exchange is completely unfounded.
    Just ask anyone who had the fortune to experience it, just don’t ask C-Webb.

  • Happy

    Why should players feel obligated to the NCAA? Why should the NBA feel obligated to ensure the NCAA gets top talent? Your desire as a fan to see top players in NCAA play isn’t a good enough argument to be included in the discussion. The point is that it isn’t nearly as rewarding for the players as it is for the schools and overseeing organization.

    Do you not understand that up until a year ago, the NCAA was making money off of video games? You know what uniquely means, right? Because the Fab Five weren’t and aren’t unique in the case of the school and NCAA making money off of merchandising. Posters and advertising dollars do not go to the players. While most schools as of late do not sell jerseys with player names, let’s not act like Michigan’s Fab Five were the last to see that happen. There is nothing unique about that situation.

    If you don’t realize the power of basketball injuries’ impact on earning potential, you haven’t played the game outside of you childhood playground days. I played one year in Europe before I shredded my knee. The risk is there and it’s real. Injury aside, if you can’t grasp the simple concept of less years played in the NBA= less money, I don’t know what to tell you. The college experience for an athlete who is biding their time before the pros is completely one sided. Eliminating the college requirement will leave AAU and Hs exactly where they are now, which is corrupt. Like I said, student-athletics should be for students only. Not the Derrick Roses who pay others to take the SAT so that a student gets robbed of a spot.

  • Happy

    I find it interesting that you ended your comment on the ignorant assumption that I didn’t attend college. I don’t need to ask about an experience I’ve already had. If I had the talent to be a draft pick from high school, I’d choose the NBA every time. College will always be there. The NCAA money machine and its allies keep pushing the false narrative that it won’t, but they are simply trying to run a business. That’s all the NCAA is.

    As for your comment on the love of the game clause, you are so completely misguided I hardly know where to begin. If you can’t see why linking a person’s disregard for the NCAA with only caring about money is a ridiculously stupid idea, I can’t help you. A guy who wants secure a rookie contract and add years to his earning potential shouldn’t be allowed to play pick up? Your logic is this: if you don’t want to play NCAA basketball, you don’t love the game. That’s dumb. You can love the game and still want to be paid the millions your NCAA coach gets. Whether or not a guy plays college ball should have nothing to do eith the NBA. Further linking the two entities can never be in the players’ interests. The system is and always will be broken when you limit a person’s options to only benefit a multi-billion dollar corporation. A proper pro farm system is needed so that no one feels obligated to attend college.

  • http://www.rich-imaging.com/ Dutch Rich

    I just want to remind you and myself for that matter that this is about an age requirement change, and not forcing kids back to school. Even though that will be a by-product.

    I’m not too interested in delving into what you think I know or what experience you think I may have versus yours. In all of my comments I only had the top tier guys in mind. The handful that are essentially affected in this argument. Not the entire college athlete body. Or you and your injured knee for that matter so you can calm down a notch.

    To me this is about tweaking the current system for the better. Utopian solutions are nice but vain.
    In Europe we have farm systems mainly due to a lack of academic sports. There are no alternatives and it’s far from ideal. Families uprooted, childhoods compromised. I’m sure it’s not too hard for you to imagine what will happen if you create a farm system for american kids who can’t handle college. The pipeline will find them elsewhere.

    If you have an open mind I encourage you to read this article:


  • Fusiform

    This is bull bleap. Messi started for Barcelona when he was 16. Boris Becker won the Wiblendon when he was 17. Drazen Petrovic, Kucoc, Divac, Rajda, Stojacovic, the were playing professionally since 15-16 years old. There are Olympic athletes that are 16 year old. Prodigy athletes are one of the most interesting thing in sports.

    It makes absolutely no sense not to allow someone to be employed while having the necessary skills. I am really surprised that no one has challenged this to court. If you are legally allowed to be employed, then it makes no sense for an organisation not hire someone on the basis they are too young, given that they show they have the adequate skills to be hired.

    The league is full of bad multi-million earning GMs, coaches and scouterswho don’t know how to do their job and they might draft players that they are not ready. But they should do their job’s better and not penalise the athlete who is broke. I would personally not have a problem if 16 year olds were allowed to to be drafted. If they can play in the NBA, then period. It is happening in soccer and all other sports all the time.

  • Fusiform

    That is exactly what is happening in other sports world-wide. Each team has a number of squads starting from 6-8 year olds up to 21. They are all paid and taken care off in school. Some teams even have academies with schools in them, where the kids go in the morning, train, then do their school and then train again. In many cases they even have accomodation and boarding for out of town kids.

    Although it would be too elaborate to do in the NBA, a true minor league would be great for the game. I would allow a team to draft even 16 year olds, and if not up to scratch to play in the NBA let them develop in the NBDL, with stiff competition and playing against men. Teams in europe are also allowed to invite players from minor leagues to come and train with the professional team to gauge how they do against actual competition.

    One of the reason’s why the draft is so bad is because the very first time to see a player play against actual professional competiion is AFTER they are drafted…