Billy Donovan Wants NBA Age Limit Eliminated

Bill Donovan

One of the most controversial topics throughout the history of the NBA has been the age limit for a player to make the jump to the pros. Talk has turned up over the last few months over the topic as new commissioner Adam Silver has stated he wants players to have two full years of college. Today in an interesting twist, Florida Gators coach Billy Donovan said he believes the NBA age limit should instead be lowered, thus eliminated completely.

What makes Donovan’s opinion newsworthy is he is one of the first college coaches to come down on the age limit. One of the prime points he made today is that players shouldn’t be forced into college when they are anxious to play in the NBA. As a result, he believes that colleges have to shoulder the responsibility for players who are enticed by the NBA, and as a result, don’t want to be in college.

Donovan basically claims that if players are forced into college, he and respective colleges are responsible for the player who may not be motivated for an education. However, his comments and reasoning is exactly why the NBA wants to restrict the age limit further. They want players to be ready for the leap into the professional world of basketball both in terms of skills and the maturity of being able to handle the rigors of the league.

He isn’t alone though. Clippers coach Doc Rivers also believes there shouldn’t be an age limit in place. He finds the conversation ridiculous due to the fact that one can go to war but not play in the NBA, by saying he believes players should have a choice to make a living.

One of the NBA’s most opinionated minds, Charles Barkley, commented on the topic a week ago by saying quite bluntly that the NBA product is weak. Furthermore, that as a result the fans aren’t getting the best quality basketball out there, and he attributes some of that to players coming into the league too early. He believes that players will be better prepared by having two years under their belt than a mere 30 games.

Lebron James of course is the most publicized high school player currently in the NBA and arguably ever to have played. He also can be pinpointed as the best high school player in his rookie season by immediately making an impact by averaging almost 21 points per game, six assists per game and 5.5 rebounds per game. This is why Barkley said he is the only one to have proven to be ready.

Of course many will throw out names like Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett and Tracy McGradey who are some of the better players to come out of high school. However, if one looks at their stats, it can be argued that they would have been better by going to college despite their wants, which disputes the Billy Donovan argument of the NBA age limit being eliminated.

For example, Kobe Bryant, who has been labeled as one of the best ever in the game, only averaged 7.6 points, granted  off of only 15 minutes, per game his first year . He did score 15.4 points with a 26 minute average the second season. Kevin Garnett averaged 10.4 points per game and 6.3 rebounds per game in 28 minutes his first year,  while McGrady put up seven  points per game season one and 9.3 points per game season two in 18 and 22 minute averages respectively.

McGrady has even gone on record stating that the league should implement the two year rule with sentiments similar to Barkley.  A year ago he said how the league needs to be built back up and even explains it by saying how young the league currently is. While McGrady doesn’t regret it, he does say that college would have prepared him more for the league.

Sure, these players didn’t play bad in their first season or two, but they weren’t phenomenal like James. Secondly, they are the exception, not the norm for players out of high school.

Kwame Brown is arguably one of the most blasted players coming out of high school, considering he was the top draft pick in 2001. Brown didn’t impress though as he only averaged 4.5 points per game and 3.5 rebounds per game in season one, 7.4 points per game and 5.3 rebounds per game in season two, and only made it into double digit points his third season before trailing off the rest of his career. Brown is more or less the average as he along with players such as Jonathan Bender, Robert Swift, Ndudi Ebi, Korleone Young among many, many others all had high expectations out of high school but had little impact in the NBA.

Commissioner Adam Silver has made no hesitation that he believes the age limit would help contribute to a more mature person, both as a player as well as an individual. As a result, he believes that it will only strengthen the league.

While there also are players who can’t make the jump from two years of college either, they are more prepared for the court as well as life. Chris Paul, a player under Doc Rivers echoes this sentiment. He believes college helped prepare him for the NBA as he wasn’t ready, which is why he stayed for two years.

From a logical standpoint, it makes sense for players to have two years under their belt. In all actuality, basketball can be compared to many other careers. To get placed in the job force, would someone immediately be able to jump into their career of choice even if they had some experience after high school? Absolutely not. The same should go for NBA Players.

At the end of the day, raising the age limit will inevitably increase the quality of the NBA product as well as prevent immature outbursts from its players. As a result, having the NBA age limit eliminated because Billy Donovan wants the league to have the responsibility for developing players, is not the way to go.

Commentary by Simon Mounsey

Sports Illustrated
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