Johnny High School Hotshot needs a job

So this is what the bigwigs at the NBA offices on Fifth Avenue in New York want?
They (or, more specifically, Commissioner David Stern) are hoping to pass a proposal that only would allow players who are a minimum of 20 years old to be part of the league.
But why?
Why should someone who isn’t even old enough to enter a club (yet old enough to fire a gun in Iraq), and take a swig from a bottle of Kokanee Gold (best drink in the world), be hindered from having millions upon millions of dollars placed in their savings account?
The answer is this.
You see, since the high school players have started to bypass the college ranks and head straight into the pros, there’s a feeling the college game has been suffering.
This is true. You don’t have “recognizable” players you used to have in the early 1990s with the likes of Tim Duncan (Wake Forest), Allen Iverson (Georgetown), and say a Chris Webber of Michigan’s Fab Five.
What greater feeder system could the NBA have than college basketball, where high school stars get to play games that are nationally-televised, Dick Vitale-hyped, and in pressure-cooked arenas?
What a great test tube two years of college would provide for NBA coaches. How will this 18-year-old respond to “March Madness” pressure? And who knows, maybe these NBA-bound players actually would attend a class or two, or at least soak up a little college culture by osmosis.
How could making Johnny High School Hotshot wait at least two years do anything but help?
For every LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Garnett (who came straight out of high school and are having successful NBA careers), there is a Korleone Young, Kendrick Perkins, Nolubi Ebi, Taj McDavid, and DeSagama Diop (who also shot to the pros straight from high school and now are waiting in line for welfare).
And then you have players like Jermaine O’Neal, another straight-out-of-high-school product who spent his college years warming the Portland Trail Blazers’ bench while collecting a fat paycheque.
That may have been good for Jermaine O’Neal; it was not good for the NBA.
O’Neal, now in his ninth year in the league, has grown into one of the most dominant centres in the NBA and has a $100-million contact. In his mind, he’s a huge star.
But he has no clue how much more of a star he would be had he spent two or three years in college being hyped by the likes of Billy Packer, Clark Kellogg, and Jim Nantz, and would be far more marketable had he gone through the NCAA hype machine.
A team is allowed only so many players, and with him being on the team, that left someone off. And that someone usually is a player nearing the end of his career, a player who would be able to help the team win now, but is instead replaced with a player that will (hopefully) mature in five years.
“I always thought that it was the purpose of the union to protect its members, not potential members,” said Grant Hill of the Orlando Magic, who had a stellar career with the Duke Blue Devils and is one of the most marketable faces in the NBA.
But when O’Neal gave a Charles Barkley-like answer in calling Stern’s intent to mandate an age requirement for induction into the NBA racist, he steered focus away from the real issue (we’ll get to that a bit later).
All of the Johnny High School Hotshots in the world are (and have all been) black. This is not a racist comment. This is fact. And O’Neal’s point was an excellent one, although he could have phrased it better.
What we have here is the establishment—and there is nobody that reeks more of the establishment than Stern—wanting to limit the opportunity of young black men.
That might not be racism in the strict definition of the word, but it is discrimination against young black men.
But O’Neal should have cried hypocrisy instead because Stern never hesitates to market the LeBrons and the Garnetts when it suits his need.
Johnny High School Hotshot does not have a right to an NBA job, but he should have the same right to apply for that job than general managers have of rejecting his application.
Stern cannot run a fast break from the fact he is dead wrong on his age requirement push for a league surviving just fine without one.
I believe an age limit is unconstitutional and on outrageous injustice against players of any colour. What other industry would impose such lunacy as not allowing its finest talents to work in the field?
If NASA were to offer a budding scientist a multi-year contract after graduating high school, no one would stand in that student’s way.
But if that student were forced to labour at a university building complex machinery that generated millions of dollars for the institution, and yet was not compensated for his efforts, it would be decried as indentured servitude.
Unless an 18-year-old prefers the “college experience,” he should not be forced to help earn millions in TV and gate revenue for a university while paid not a nickel more than tuition, room, and board.
None of these kids should be forced for two years to risk a career-ending injury for dear ol’ U, especially when that player is hardly a child of privilege.
“I would like kids bouncing the ball in the sixth grade whose parents tell me that they are planning to go directly to the NBA out of high school to know they are not,” Stern said at a press conference last week.
In other words, Stern claims to be performing a public service.
Hogwash.
The NBA is not a social agency. It’s a basketball league. It’s not out to save the world. It’s out to turn a profit. Stern wants an age limit not to save the youth of the world, but to save the league from itself.
But if an 18-year-old believes he has the talent to play in the NBA, then he should have the right to try—or to fail.
Johnny High School Hotshot should be free to apply for employment; the grown-ups should be free to turn him down.
emoutsatsos@fortfrances.com

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