You GOTTA have an opinion! (on the NBA’s age minimum requirement)


Vincent Vega thinks you should have an opinion on the NBA age minimum issue.

Adam Silver talked about it.

And then Chad Ford wrote about it. And Amin Elhassan wrote about it. Jay Bilas and Jeff Goodman wrote about it. Kevin Pelton wrote about it. And David Thorpe wrote about it. Tom Haberstroh wrote about it. And then Chad Ford wrote some more about it. So did Jeff Goodman.

And those are just recent pieces. (eds note: Many or all of those are “Insider” links that require a subscription to read.)

Last year, Steve Kerr helped get this ball rolling toward an increased age minimum for NBA basketball players. In “The Case for the 20-Year-Old Age Limit in the NBA,” written for Grantland, Kerr… well, made the case for the 20-year-old age limit in the NBA. His basic point is that it makes good business sense for the NBA to increase its age minimum from 19 to 20. He listed six basic reasons: Player maturity, financial costs, player development, marketing, “a sense of team,” and mentoring.

Kerr’s piece, and the entire notion of having an age minimum (let alone raising it) has invited mixed reactions. Those ESPN articles and many others contain some combination of the following opinions about this contentious issue:

* 18 and 19 year old kids are not ready for NBA basketball or the lifestyle it involves. They should go to college, get an education, and continue to grow up. Also, get off my lawn.

* Who is Adam Silver to say what 18 and 19 year olds should do with their lives? If they’re good enough to get drafted by an NBA team, they should have that choice and not be forced to get an education that they don’t even want.

* But they’re not actually good enough to play. Not most of them anyway. They get drafted for their potential.

* NBA scouting would improve with an additional year of performance to analyze.

* No it wouldn’t. Look back at the drafts before Kevin Garnett began the early-entry habit. Sam Bowie and Michael Jordan each played three college seasons. Spoiled with that trove of data, the Portland Trail Blazers selected the former over the latter in the worst draft mistake in league history. And that is not an isolated incident. The draft is a crapshoot and it doesn’t really matter if teams have one, two, or zero college seasons to analyze.

* College basketball is a better place for young players to develop their skills.

* NBA basketball is a better place for young players to develop their skills.

* Increasing the age minimum will be good for the college game, as star players will have to play for two seasons instead of one. And a good college game is ultimately good for the pro game. It increases the marketability of young pros, as more “casual” fans will recognize them from their college days.

* Yeah, it will help the college game, but that’s terrible for the NBA. It’s helping out a competitor for TV ratings and fan interest. How is this a good idea?

What I find most interesting about these arguments is that they are always focused on either the interests of the players, or the interests of the league. They are rarely, if ever, focused on the interests of basketball fans. It seems to be this way in any coverage of sports labor issues. In order to write something about it, you necessarily must be an advocate for one of the parties. The discourse — and this is probably more on Twitter than in published articles — also tends to be ideological. The facts of any particular sports-labor issue take a backseat to the need to choose a side between ownership and the players union. There are parallels to the deep divide between America’s two political parties.

Forgive me then, for my selfishness here. When I think about NBA labor issues in 2014, I tend to place my interests as a fan and paying customer ahead of the interests of the owners and players. And in the case of this age minimum issue, I would like to see Adam Silver get his wish. I want a higher age minimum in my NBA that I pay money to watch. For two main reasons.

First, with an increased NBA age minimum would come more good basketball to watch.

This is pretty much inarguable. In the NBA, an increased age minimum would mean that the worst teams — the ones that just picked at the top of the draft — would be better than they are under the current rules. They would be better because their recently-drafted rookie would be older and more experienced, and therefore more able to help his team win basketball games. There would be less on-the-job training.

Outside of the NBA, an increased age minimum would mean that the best 19 year olds would be dominating inferior competition instead of struggling to keep their heads above water in the pro game. I don’t think I’m alone in finding dominance more entertaining than struggles. You had more fun watching Anthony Davis at Kentucky than you did watching him as a rookie in New Orleans. Same with Texas Kevin Durant versus Supersonics Kevin Durant. (No really, you did.) Imagine how great they would’ve been as a sophomores. It would’ve been [even more] incredible to watch.

I should add that I think increasing the age minimum to 20 would lead to a second marketable professional league in America. That could be the NBA Developmental League, or a new independent league. I wrote about this already. I don’t care if it’s college or pro, but it would be fun to see the best 18 and 19 year olds playing at a lower level than the NBA; a level where they can look like stars.

My second reason for wanting a higher age minimum is that I enjoy watching rookies, and wish that they were better than they are now.

The NBA regular season is way too long, and after a certain point in time we get a little bit bored by watching the same players. Or, as it is more commonly phrased, we begin to “take them for granted.” I mentioned that it’s more fun to write about Shabazz Muhammad than Kevin Love, because I’m just getting to know Shabazz as a player. I know what Love is. (Not Forrest Gump voice.) I also have a pretty clear idea of what LeBron’s game looks like, and mostly just wait to see it tested in the late rounds of the playoffs. When surfing League Pass on a Wednesday night in February, I’d rather watch Anthony Bennett or Victor Oladipo.

The freshness (newness?) quality of rookies is vital to the NBA’s regular season entertainment value. We need new faces, new skill sets, and new personalities to renew our interest in these games. And it’s easier to generate that interest in players that are actually, you know, good at basketball.

Do you remember watching Shaquille O’Neal as a rookie? Or Chris Webber? How about Tim Duncan? They were incredible players that were instantly relevant as competitors. Their rookie experiences were very unlike Kevin Durant’s or Kyrie Irving’s. Or even LeBron James’s. If you’re old enough to remember what experienced rookies look like, you probably agree with my belief that they were more fun to watch than the modern-day one and dones.

So for those two reasons, my opinion is that the league should increase the age minimum to 20.

What’s yours?



Filed under Features

13 responses to “You GOTTA have an opinion! (on the NBA’s age minimum requirement)

  1. You forgot my name and article in the opening paragraph =[[[

  2. DAG

    Every NBA team needs its own D-League team. This will come. College isn’t for everyone.

  3. Bhughling

    Agree with your points but I would also like to stress Kerr’s point on the priceless life experiences one can only get on college. One and dones have a completely different experience than a 4yr graduate. The money/nba experiences will likely be there later but they will never get another shot at what many 4 year graduates recall as some of their best times.
    The portrayal of the poor athlete needing to make good immediately for his family to survive has been debunked for quite some time thanks to Harvard business reviews studies. Most NBA bound players today have been in AAU ball or camps or elite schools and have been groomed against top competition daily. Those outlets all require significant parental time and/or resources. So it comes as no surprise that 2/3s of NBA players today come from middle to upper class families.

  4. Nate in St. Paul


    I just finished a Quentin Tarantino movie marathon and Pulp Fiction holds up like gangbusters.

    Better than I remember:

    – Jackie Brown (especially the 2nd half, which is probably his best work)

    – Death Proof (I think this one is going to end up being viewed as a minor masterpiece and possibly his best non-Pulp Fiction flick)

    Worse than I remember:

    – Four Rooms

    – Django

    – Reservoir Dogs

    As good as I remember:

    – Basterds

    – Kill Bill movies

    John Travolta got a lot of the acting buzz with Pulp Fiction but Sam Jackson and (especially) Bruce Willis really held the thing together. Also, there are a few moments in the movie that, in hindsight, should have been axed: the whole Harvey Keitel/Quentin backyard scene is just the worst. Also, a lot of Travolta’s acting just doesn’t hold up well. His work with Uma Thurman is fantastic, but the rest of it borders on not-good.

    Quentin Power Rankings:

    1- Pulp Fiction

    2- Death Proof

    3- Jackie Brown

    4- Kill Bill, vol. 2

    5- Basterds

    6- Kill Bill, vol. 1

    7- Reservoir Dogs

    8- Django

    9- Four Rooms

    It will be interesting to see how his filmography holds up. Back in the 90s and early aughts he was The American Director and now he’s probably been eclipsed by Fincher, PT Anderson, and Wes Anderson.

    • I loved Django in the theater, but don’t anticipate enjoying it much on multiple viewings. It was more plot dependent than PF, obviously.

      I have to take issue with this: “the whole Harvey Keitel/Quentin backyard scene is just the worst” if only because “They look like a couple of dorks/Ha ha ha, they’re your close motherf*cker” is one of my 20 or so favorite bits of dialogue in the movie.

      I wonder he’ll do next. Sounds like he hasn’t moved on from The Hateful Eight leak.. –

      • Nate in St. Paul

        Quick Irish sidebar:

        Julia Sweeney plays the girl at the scrap yard who goes out for pancakes with Harvey’s fixer. She also sings along with Jonathan Richman on one of the sweetest songs ever set to record, Just Because I’m Irish:

        Back to that scene…other dialogue includes some really, really, really cringe-worthy n-bombs from Tarantino. Also, the whole payoff of the fixer being some sort of uber-respected/above-the-law problem solver is pretty minimal. I get the meta stuff with the director saying words he can’t say in real life and that the fixer is used as a pivot for moving the character gazes of Jules and Vincent forward while getting them out of a fix, but it wasn’t much more than cleaning a car and knowing someone in the valley. He has a big rolodex, I guess. Not knowing how he fixed it would have been more interesting, a’la not knowing what is in the suitcase. Actually finding out what was in there couldn’t have not been a letdown. Ditto for seeing the super fixer in action.

        Hopefully he’ll get over himself with the script bit and get to making more movies.

      • Concur with a lot of both your and Nate’s takes on Tarantino. Pulp Fiction is the undisputed masterpiece. I’ve always felt alone in how much I treasure Death Proof. (When I introduce the argument Nate made above, it’s usually met with a blank stare or an unenthusiastic/unpersuasive nod before the subject gets changed.) Reservoir Dogs holds up against infinite viewings, but I never thought it was as great in the first place as many. Django was good on the first viewing. Solid film, but fully agree with Andy that it loses its luster after that. Given that, I’d expect to feel the same way about Inglorious, but I loved it on my first viewing and liked it even more with each subsequent viewing. (I think I’ve seen it four or maybe five times now.) I liked Kill Bill, Vol. II a lot, but Vol. I not so much.

        So I’d go:
        1) Pulp Fiction
        2) Death Proof
        3) Inglorious
        4) Reservoir Dogs
        5) Kill Bill, Vol. II
        6) Django

        It’s a wash after that. I do love the screenplay he wrote for True Romance, so I’d count that film somewhere in the list with an asterisk next to it.

        • Nate in St. Paul

          The thing Death Proof really has going for it is that it is going to be one of the very last pre-digital masterpieces from a major director, and this alone is going to make it stick out like a sore thumb going forward. The stunt work, his most genuine references, his greatest connection to the exploitative material he’s aping, Kurt F’ing Russell…it’s a little beast of a movie. I love directors with amazing B movies. This is his Touch of Evil. Heartfelt nostalgia with A + execution.

          (That being said, he’s said that it is his least favorite and worst work.)

        • Nate in St. Paul

          I think Django is only going to look worse over time. 12 Years a Slave is such a better movie and more appropriate treatment of the subject matter (even though Django is a fantasy) that it is going to be hard to view Tarantino’s effort on its own merits. His movie got smoked.

          • Still need to see 12 Years, but everything I’ve read/heard leads me to expect it to be great.

            • Nate in St. Paul

              It’s pretty fantastic. The acting, the camera work, the singular vision of a director working at the top of his game permeating the entire film, and so on and so forth. It reminds me a lot of Schindler’s List crossed with Passion of the Christ and without the sentimentality of the former and the naked reverence of the latter. It’s unflinching and stunning and, I think, superior to both of those films.

              In terms of overall meaning and impact, the Academy picked the right film. It’s one for the ages. More big studio films about the black American experience from black directors, please. Reconstruction is ripe with good subject matter.

              The film geek in me thinks that All Is Lost and Robert Redford were robbed of, at the very least, recognition in the Best Picture and Best Actor categories. JC Chandor has quietly opened his career with what I believe to be the 2 best pictures of the years in which they were released: Margin Call (2011) and All is Lost (2013). He’s got another one coming out this year in November (A Most Violent Year). Margin Call is going to go down as the best Wall Street movie of the era and All is Lost is a better version of Gravity. It’s one of the best man v. nature films I’ve ever seen–right up there with Herzog’s best work. The dude is off to one hell of a start.

              Also, the Act of Killing. Surrealism and the ecstatic truth at its finest. That film was genuinely robbed.

              (And Pacific Rim is the best monster movie of the modern special effects/super hero era. It was a pretty good year for movies.)

              • *updates Netflix queue*

                I really enjoyed Inside Llewyn Davis and Blue Jasmine this year in theaters. ILD didn’t get the usual Coen Bros. acclaim, but that (IMO) was because of its subtlety and realism that dialed back their quirky dialogue just a bit. There was a pretty good MinnPost article about it, shortly before the Oscars:

                • Nate in St. Paul

                  Yeah, it was really good. However, at this point I have a hard time telling between something being very Coeny and very good own its own merits. I’m a sucker for all things Coen so I’m not a very good judge of it as something on its own. It was definitely better than Philomena and Gravity.

                  I’m going to need to watch it a few more times. I really like the idea of a movie about an unsung singer. That’s a pretty good joke. Especially with the Dylan angle at the end and them being from Minnesota. Their Dylan movie is about the guy he overshadowed.