Congressman to NBA: Rescind Age Minimum

by Ryne Nelson

Tennessee representative Steve Cohen has written a letter to the NBA and the player’s union, asking the League to scrap the 19-year-old age minimum requirement in the next CBA. The letter, sent to the Commish David Stern and player’s association Director Billy Hunter, argues the age minimum has contributed to the recent bevy of college recruiting scandals and is a detriment to many young player’s careers.

“I am writing to express my deep concern over the policy of the National Basketball Association (NBA) to bar athletes from playing in the league on the basis of their age.

The “19 plus 1” policy, which requires American players to be at least 19 years of age and one year removed from their high school graduating class, is an unfair restriction on the rights of these young men to pursue their intended career. I also believe that it has played an important role in several recent scandals involving college students who were prevented from entering the NBA upon high school graduation.

I ask that this policy be repealed when the NBA completes its new collective bargaining agreement with the NBA Player’s Association.”

To read Cohen’s full letter, click here. In a follow-up interview, Cohen went so far as to call the rule a “vestige of slavery” and “restraint on a person’s freedoms and liberties.”

Stern has taken a opposite stance, however, saying he would support an increase in the minimum to 20 years of age. For every Garnett, Bryant, James, Stoudemire and Howard, said the commissioner, are five others who tried to make the jump early and never made it.

There are currently three options for players with pro aspirations after high school: 1) College, 2) D-League and 3) Europe/other foreign professional league. Stern feels like the D-League and Europe are more than viable options for young players who cannot (or choose not to) play in college.

Stern is wrong in many respects. The D-League’s competition and salaries are nothing compared to even those in Europe, making it a terrible option for the prodigiously talented 18 year olds. In Europe players can get paid (if they’re lucky) and possibly sign small endorsement deals. Is the culture shock and inconsistent roles on these foreign rosters giving players a chance to best showcase their talent? Not in Brandon Jennings’ case.

Imagine if Derrick Rose or O.J. Mayo went straight to the League out of high school. Sure, they may have fallen out of the 2007 Lottery, but would all this mess have been necessary? C’mon, commish. Develop the D-League into a viable minor league or listen to the Congressman.