20-Year-Old Age Limit in the NBA: A Positive for College Basketball

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3. Player Development

Player development is a huge issue in the NBA as a whole. Many of the first round picks of the NBA Draft are not expected to be championship contenders in their first year, but it was not always that way.

Back in the late 70s, Magic Johnson played two years at Michigan State University before becoming the #1 overall pick for the Los Angeles Lakers in 1979. In his rookie season, Johnson averaged 18 points per game, 7.7 rebounds per game, 7.3 assists per game, and 2.4 steals per game. The Lakers that season went to the NBA Finals and defeated the Philadelphia 76ers. He became the only rookie in NBA history to win the Finals MVP award.

Johnson sits as a nice model for the 20-year-old age limit because he only played two years of college ball before going to the NBA.

In comparison, Kobe Bryant was a player that came into the NBA right out of high school. Bryant was acquired by the Los Angeles Lakers through a trade with the Charlotte Hornets after being drafted 13th overall. In his rookie season, Bryant averaged 7.6 points per game, 1.9 rebounds per game, and 1.3 assists per game. The Lakers did make the playoffs in Bryant’s rookie season, but lost in the first round where Bryant fired two air balls in the last minutes of their final loss.

Bryant did not win his first MVP until his twelfth season, his first NBA championship until his fourth season (thirteenth season without Shaq), and his first Finals MVP until his thirteenth season. He didn’t even average thirty minutes per game until his third season in the NBA.

What’s the worst that could have happened if Bryant played two seasons of college basketball? Besides money, the answer to that question is nothing. Bryant needed extra playing time and definitely would have got that if he went to play two seasons with a college contender.

Moreover, LeBron James and Dwight Howard got drafted into “savior” situations and that can hinder a player’s development. Just look at where James and Howard are at this moment. James is one of the most hated players in the NBA after “The Decision” and Howard is in a complete rebuilding process in Orlando. It would have been a win for college basketball and the NBA if Bryant, James, and Howard all played for elite NCAA teams.

All in all, a 20-year-old age limit for the NBA Draft would be a huge positive for college basketball. College basketball would no longer be a revolving door to the NBA. Fans would not only be interested in March Madness, but the entire college basketball season because their favorite players would be returning for another college year. It would also make the competition balance in college basketball a lot tougher as there would be more top prospects in the NCAA.

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