When the NBA passed the rule that no more players could come straight from high school to the league, I’m sure they thought they were doing something good. For a while, I did too. Sure, you have great HS-to-pros success stories like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady, Dwight Howard, and of course, LeBron James. Unfortunately, the bad outweighed the good with players like Sebastian Telfair, Shaun Livingston, Leon Smith, Kwame Brown, Eddy Curry, Darius Miles, Jonathan Bender, Robert Swift…..I think you get my point. But the more I thought about it, my stance changed. If 18 year olds can go fight for our country, why can’t go they go the NBA and make a living? Maybe they aren’t mentally strong enough or physically ready. That’s the choice you make as an adult which, by societal law, they are.
David Stern probably thought he was going to get kids to stay in school longer by instituting this rule. Little did he know, he’d be starting a trend that actually ended up hurting the college basketball game more than he thought; if he even thought about it. The rule said that players that wished to become draft eligible had to be a year removed from their graduating class. Well, for all top high school players post 2005, that’s exactly what they did. Yeah, they’d go to college because they had to but after that one year, they were gone.
The term “one and dones” were used to describe Kevin Durant, OJ Mayo, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Kevin Love, Michael Beasley, Derrick Rose, Greg Oden, Kyrie Irving and many more. The coaches in college basketball said they had accepted this new era but there’s not a basketball coach in America that is really comfortable with knowing they have a program-changing player for one season only. For a while, “one and dones” dominated college basketball. Winning every award you could think of, taking their schools to Sweet 16s, Elite Eights, Final Fours, winning National Championships, bringing schools not known for basketball into the spotlight, one and dones were doing it all in a season. Unfortunately, good things don’t last forever. After that one great season, the players were off to the NBA. It may not be that hard to keep reloading after a year or two but to continually lose your best player and then whatever seniors you may have on the team can take a toll on any program.
What made teams in college basketball great, pre-one & done era, was that the talented freshman rarely left after one year. They’d stay in school and get better as players which, in turn, helped their school. So if you, as a college basketball coach, were a good recruiter and had a damn good program, you would have a great incoming freshman class blending in with upperclassmen that had been there. That’s why you saw great teams like ’99 Duke, ’82 North Carolina, ’08 Memphis, ’95 UCLA & ’96 Kentucky do so well and are considered some of the greatest teams in college basketball history.
So what programs & coaches were left with after that one magical season that either got them a national championship, national prominence or just one of the best seasons that they ever had was a depleted roster. No more incredible freshmen, the seniors graduate, you may have a sophomore or junior leave and now you have to rebuild your team. From scratch. In less than a year. And that’s just putting the players on the roster. Then you have to factor in chemistry and how quickly can the team gel to be the team it has the potential to be. This one and done era is killing college basketball.
Not that the NBA cares because their product isn’t hurt from this era. They got the high schoolers out of their league. The “immaturity” is gone for one year at least and they probably feel that they’re helping the kids. Well, that’s BS. Grade A, pure, unadulterated BS. If they cared about the kids true well-being, maybe the NBA would have college enter the league after 2 or 3 years or work in conjecture with the NCAA to institute that the NBA hopefuls on the team MUST finish their last semester of school even though they aren’t coming back the following term just so they can have some credits to start from if they choose to go back. THAT would help the kids. But since the NBA doesn’t want to do that then let these kids make the choice to enter the NBA straight out of high school. If an 18-year-old can enter the military, be charged as an adult with a crime or buy a pack of death, I mean, cigarettes legally then they should be able to enter a sports league to make an honest and legal living.
I think that would help the One and Done era because when you tell a kid with NBA dreams that all they have to do is “XYZ” and they’re in the league, they’ll abide by that with no issue because all they want to do is be in the NBA. But when you leave it up to them and let them make their own decision, I think you’ll have what you had pre 2005 and that’s kids being left to make their own choice about whether to bypass college or not. Sure, what high school kid with chances of going to the league doesn’t look at Kobe, LeBron, Garnett, T-Mac and Dwight and say, “That can be me.” Maybe that CAN be them, maybe not but that’s part of being an adult. Finding your way in life and succeeding or failing. The NBA needs to stop making life decisions for the youth of America.