Imagine you are 18 years old again. For many that brings very joyful thoughts from times of no bills, no kids, no real job, no mortgage to pay, and the only worries were home room, final exams, and if your girlfriend or boyfriend would be with you to “take over for the 99 and the 2000s” when the beat drops. For others, it is a time of deep remorse, a stark reminder of opportunities squandered and the beginnings of the pathway to student loan debt, a failed marriage (or two), whining kids, a jerk for a boss, and your mom wanting you to come over for meatloaf and to tell her what the brown emoji is. You’re tempted to tell her the meatloaf and brown emoji are synonymous, however once she learns the connection the joke will be on you.
Now imagine your thoughts of being 18 years old again are positive. You are an extremely talented musician or computer science wiz. Kanye West has been by to check out your performances, or Mark Zuckerberg has been by your school recruiting for Facebook and asked teachers about you. You’re regarded not just as among the best in your city, but you’ve been told since you were a fetus that you are the next Paul McCartney, or the next Quavo, or the next Bob Dillon, or the next Bill Gates, or even the next Steve Jobs. Your goal in life was to sell 5 million albums your first week and be a social media sensation, or to head up the next one word name phenomenon tech company that disrupts the entire industry! The record label already has the contract offer ready just before prom season, or Mr. Zuckerberg has a private jet ready to take you to San Francisco with a $375,000 per year position with your name on it. There’s just one problem (and it has nothing to do with brown emojis or meatloaf). YOU HAVE TO GO TO COLLEGE FOR AT LEAST TWO SEMESTERS FIRST!
Oh yes, you could go to the military instead which is a great option for a many men and women in this country historically and currently. However in this instance the “rule” states that you must go to college at least for year or overseas. Even though Kanye wants you bad, even though Mr. Zuckerberg identifies you as the chosen one. No ma’am, no sir. Off to college you go! And guess what? You only have to be eligible for the first semester, after that you can still take the second semester off since you’re leaving anyway. Now my friend you are living the life not of a talented musician, or a computer genius. You’re a regular old high school basketball player. Someone who is more than likely 6’3 or taller, more than likely of African descent living in America, more than likely having grown up in poverty conditions, and more than likely ready to enter the NBA out of high school. That last part is critical because like in music or in tech, someone has to analyze, assess, and critique that readiness.
The first high school player to enter professional basketball was Moses Malone, who signed with the ABA in 1974 and went into the NBA when the two leagues merged. Two other high schoolers followed, Darryl Dawkins and Bill Willoughby, both in 1975. Kevin Garnett entered the NBA out of high school in 1995 to instant success. Kobe Bryant, Jermaine O’Neal, Tracy McGrady, Dwight Howard, and LeBron James followed. So did Kwame Brown, Darius Miles, Robert Swift, Jonathan Bender, and a few others.
Would the Garnetts, Bryants, and James’ have benefited from being on campus their rookie years instead of playing pro basketball? How about Kwame Brown? In the past 10 NBA drafts, 55 one-and-done players have been taken in the NBA Draft Lottery, which represents the top 14 picks. Ten of the first 11 picks in the 2017 NBA draft were college freshmen. “I think they should change the rule,” N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts said recently. “If you’re good enough to go play, nobody should tell you (you) shouldn’t be able to.” I certainly understand the reason for the rule at the time. NBA team talent assessment scouts wanted to reduce the accountability of recommending team general managers and owners select an 18 year old and make him the face of their franchise just 6 months after senior skip day. If they didn’t hit it just right with a Kobe Bryant, the alternative was too much to bare. And costs a few their jobs. So please shed a tear for the six figure salary guy or girl who couldn’t see that Kwame Brown had trouble catching the ball with anyone within a foot of him, or that Jonathan Bender’s knees were made of the same play-dough that my daughters play with today.
In the end, this is about fairness and a rule that was broken from the time it was implemented. Just ask the FBI and the probe they are conducting now with men’s college basketball. For a sport that is loaded with gamesmanship, unrealistic and outdated rules, and coaches who thus benefit, a rule that requires high schoolers who are adults to have to go to college or play overseas for a year is ridiculous in my opinion. The same adult who can go die in a war, yet cannot have a beer without a fake ID or a keg at his parents house when they are away.
Today as the talented musician you can run off with Kanye West at 18 years old. You may become a huge megastar, you may become the next line of one hit wonders that has a story on BET’s “Unsung” or VH1s “Where Are They Now?”. You may become the next Mark Zuckerberg and create the next social media craze that further cements human beings as the most time-wasting, post sharing mammals to ever exist. Or you may fizzle out, and end of back in your hometown watching YouTube videos. This happens everyday on this planet, however that is the cost to be the boss. Talent evaluation is critical in every business industry. Rules should not be put in place so that assessors can have excuses. An adult, albeit 18 years old, should have the opportunity to go forth and pursue their talent at the highest level if they demonstrate the aptitude and ability. This is why I’m all for the end of the one and done rule in the NBA. And I believe it will come to and end very soon. And it will be handled better now, given the advent of the G-League as a developmental option for young talent. This should have always been the case, as it is with Major League Baseball.
Personally I cannot wait for the day young men (and for that case young women for the WNBA) with high level basketball talent can enter the league and wow us like LeBron and Kobe did, or make us scratch our heads like Kwame and Darius Miles did. But such is life. Your mom’s meatloaf isn’t so bad. Your explanation to her of the history of brown emojis? It needs to go, along with the one and done rule.