Nerlens Noel is a freshman basketball player at the University of Kentucky. Pro scouts and draft gurus all had Noel penciled in as a very high draft pick in the next NBA draft, with some considering him a candidate for the number one overall pick. On Tuesday night, Noel tore his ACL in a gruesome-looking incident during his team’s game against Florida. A debate began immediately about the NBA’s draft eligibility rules, which require a player to be at least 19 years old and at least one year out of high school before he is eligible. It’s certainly possible that this rule may have cost Noel a whole lot of money.
Is the rule fair? I could easily argue both sides of this. On the one hand, if Noel is talented enough that someone would have taken him high in last year’s draft, is it fair that he was unable to take advantage of that and the huge money that would have come with it because the NBA decided a few years ago that it didn’t like guys coming right from high school into the league? Shouldn’t the skill of the player be all that matters here? It does not seem just that this kid may have lost millions of dollars because he was essentially forced to go to college for a year. If education were the goal, it would be easier to understand the rule, but the fact that the requirement is only one year puts the lie to that. I guess it would not make much sense to require a college degree to play in the NBA, but I do understand why it makes sense for these guys to have something to bolster their futures after their playing careers are over.
The other side of the coin, and the reason I can understand the rule, is that the league has really suffered since it became common for players to enter the league early. Sure, there have been some guys who were really ready to play right out of high school like Lebron James. Kobe Bryant took a year or two before he became the player he became, but his ability was clearly evident right away. Unfortunately, there are many, many examples of players who were drafted very high at 18 or 19 years old who never panned out. Kwame Brown was the first overall pick in the draft in 2001, and although he has managed to hang around the league for a long time now, he has never been more than a journeyman player. The real problem is that the league seems so watered down, with numerous players on every roster that just don’t seem to have it, yet they keep their roster spots because of all the money they were guaranteed by their draft positions. At the same time, the college game has suffered as well. The big-time programs never get a chance to build real teams, as they are often filled with players who leave after a year or two, which prevents the real meshing that the great teams need. Some schools, like Kentucky, actually, have gone to extremes with this, openly selling the idea of “one and done” to the superstar high school players.
After Noel’s injury, an interesting offshoot of the main topic cropped up, which involved a college football player named Jadeveon Clowney. Clowney was the consensus top recruit coming out of high school, and he went to South Carolina to play defensive end for Steve Spurrier. Many scouts felt that he could have gone right to the NFL out of high school if he were able, but the NFL’s rules are even more stringent than those of the NBA. A football player is not eligible for the NFL Draft until he has been out of high school for three years. Clowney has only been out for two years, but the opinion of his skills has not diminished in any way. To the contrary, there is little doubt that he would be the first pick in April’s draft if that were not against the rules. I have read things this week that suggest that he should consider sitting out next season rather than playing for the Gamecocks to avoid the sort of injury suffered by Noel and protect his future earnings. So far, Clowney has said that he will do no such thing. I am glad to know he will play next season, as he is really something to watch, but I could understand it if he were hesitant to risk millions of dollars by doing so.
There is no easy answer to this question. I am interested in fairness, but I am also interested in quality sports. Basketball has not benefitted in any way from early exits from college, and I imagine that football would suffer similarly.
Bad sports, continued:
2) The Philadelphia Eagles have decided, at least for the moment, to keep Michael Vick around, renegotiating his contract to a more palatable number for this season. I had really hoped the Eagles were done with Vick, and I am disappointed to know that I may need to sit through another season of conflicted rooting.
3) The International Olympic Committee announced this week that it was dropping wrestling from the games starting in 2020. I am not much of a wrestling fan, but I have seen a great deal of outcry due to this decision, so I take it that there are many fans out there. Wrestling has been a part of the Olympics since the late 19th century, so that is a lot of tradition being tossed out the window.
4) Four football players from the national champion University of Alabama were arrested this week and charged with robbery after allegedly beating a man and stealing his credit cards on campus on Monday.
5) Oscar Pistorius, the runner from South Africa who made news in the last Olympics after he was allowed to compete despite the two blades he has in place of feet, was arrested this week and charged with the murder of his girlfriend, model Reeva Steenkamp.
6) Hedo Turkoglu, a forward for the Orlando Magic, tested positive for steroids, it was announced this week. He received a suspension of 20 games for his offense.
7) Ouch. Erik Karlsson, a defenseman for the Ottawa Senators, had his Achilles tendon cut by the skate blade of an opponent on Wednesday, and will need surgery.
8) In the Philadelphia suburbs, a girl who had been playing football for several years in a league run by the local Catholic Youth Organization was told that she can no longer play because she is a girl. If she can play, she can play. I hope Carolina Pla finds a league run by an organization that doesn’t treat females like they are second-class citizens.
1) On Sunday, Danica Patrick became the first woman to ever win a pole position in NASCAR’s top series when she posted the fastest time in qualifying for next week’s Daytona 500.
2) Lebron James had a pretty incredible streak until late in the week, managing 30 or more points and 60%+ shooting for six straight games, which had never been done before.
3) Esther Vergeer announced her retirement from competitive tennis this week. In the world of wheelchair tennis, she has had no peer, compiling a career record of 700-25, including a winning streak that lasted for 470 matches, covering the final ten years of her career.
4) Serena Williams made it back to the world’s number one ranking this week, making her the oldest woman to ever hold that ranking. She is 31.
5) Daniela Holmqvist, an Australian golfer, was bitten by a Black Widow spider on the fourth hole of a competition on Tuesday in Canberra. Amazingly, she lanced out the poison with a tee and finished her round.
Bad sports, good sports appears every Monday
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