NBA Commissioner Adam Silver

One of the silliest rules ever devised by any major sports organization is coming to an end, and it couldn’t come soon enough.

Last Thursday NBA Commissioner Adam Silver publicly said what pretty much everyone has been saying for many years, that it makes no sense to require people who have no interest in either going to college or being students to attend a university for one year and pretend they care about academics or college life.

“There are a bunch of issues that need to be worked through between us and the players association, so it’s (the rule) something we’re in active discussions about,” Silver said. “It’s a few years away, I think.” But he added he felt that the 2022 NBA Draft was the best place to begin allowing high school players to once more go straight to the NBA if they desired and were drafted, rather than playing one season of college basketball.

The main thing that should be understood is that it was never an NCAA rule, although most of the college coaches didn’t speak out about it until recently. It was veteran NBA players who got that rule pushed through and passed because they didn’t like the fact untried and unseasoned players were coming straight out of high school and getting big bonuses, to say nothing of threatening their job security.

The NBA tried to put a good face on it by claiming it gave the players a chance to improve their draft stock and their abilities.

The colleges were happy to get high profile players that would improve their marketability and television ratings, even if it was only for a year. They also didn’t have to pay anything beyond a scholarship, and in recent years some stipend money. But no one was silly enough to claim college players were getting what they should have been getting as minor league professionals.

It remains a puzzle why the NBA didn’t adopt the MLB rule a long time ago. MLB lets players go straight from high school to the pros if they desire, but once they sign a college scholarship deal they’re obligated to stay there at least three years. This way there’s no pretense. If you play college baseball you are there for three years. No taking a bunch of sham courses to stay eligible for a season, then head off to whoever drafts you.

Now there will have to be some adjustments and decisions made. For instance, no team has to necessarily draft a high school senior.

If they do, they should also have the right to send them to the G league if that player needs further seasoning. Plus there are some players who actually DO want to go to college, and get a degree while playing ball. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, and ending the sham one-and-done rule should allow anyone who does want to play college ball for three or four years that option.

There’s also now in place the opportunity for players to get their draft and pro readiness assessed at the end of their first season.

So a player who feels perhaps they are ready for the NBA after their freshman or sophomore seasons could still enter into the draft process. 

“So if the rule were to change, we and our players association, USA Basketball, other groups would be working much more directly with those young players to prepare them for the NBA,” Silver added. That’s code for we’re still going to do what we can to protect bigtime college basketball. What the handful of schools and coaches who’ve profited from the past system are extremely afraid of happening is that their game turns into college baseball.

That sport still has exciting games and lots of athletes who compete at a high level. What it doesn’t have is wall-to-wall TV coverage, multi-million dollar coaches, and schools getting big money off the networks. Of course it also doesn’t have scandals that result in sports agents, marketers and coaches (mainly assistants) going to federal prison for violating the law either.

So while the date isn’t set in stone, look for 2022 (at the latest) to mark the end of the one-and-done era. It can’t come soon enough.