This year’s high school seniors are the first graduating class for which entry to the NBA next season is not an option. The New York Times’ Selena Roberts , though hardly the first to cite the differing standards, does so convincingly just the same. Though I’m not sure about the part where she refers to “campus gals who aspire to be Carolina Panters cheerleaders” — Phil Mushnick just called, he wants his moral outrage back.
In the leadup to last week’s national signing day, some college coaches must have felt forced to all but sign one-year promotional deals with talented teenagers who might have been bound for the National Basketball Association if not for the new age-eligibility requirement.
It’s 19, not 18 anymore. It’s one year of college, not a prom-and-done proposition now. It is an ill-conceived piece of phony feel-good legislation on every level.
A year to mature, a season to grow, the N.B.A. caretakers will tell you. As if a freshman year is an introduction to adulthood and responsibility instead of beer bongs and campus gals who aspire to be Carolina Panthers cheerleaders.
As if it would have been better for good-citizen LeBron James to put on a freshman 15 rather than for Carmelo Anthony to put in a cameo at Syracuse before appearing in the underground “Snitch” DVD as an N.B.A. player.
The Pacers’ Jermaine O’Neal eloquently described the age limit last year as an unconstitutional rule directed at black athletes. Together, with the recent Mister Rogers dress code, the N.B.A. is precariously close to being perceived as a league trying to brush itself with a whitening system.
While the National Hockey League promotes the wholesome Sidney Crosby, and the Ladies Professional Golf Association benefits from Michelle Wie’s pro decision on her Sweet 16th, the N.B.A. is hoping its future stars of the baggy-jean age outgrow their hip-hop phase with a year in the hands of a college coach.
Let Bob Knight teach, mold and scold them into scouts. Let Mike Krzyzewski shower them with warm hugs as he transforms them into upstanding Dukies. Let college be the N.B.A.’s fly-by farm system.