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The Black Sheep Of The Lockout: The NBA Draft & The Age Rule

By 11.22.11
Tracy McGrady

Tracy McGrady (photo. Marc Morrison)

But this isn’t necessarily about what’s good for basketball. It’s about why is what’s good for basketball not good for other sports. In high school, there was a kid from my hometown who went to the public school. I went to the private school. We played each other on the hardwood. But his real calling was on the mound. He could fire fastballs at 95-98 miles an hour while still in high school. After his senior year, he was drafted No. 16 overall by the Florida Marlins. But Jeff Allison hasn’t made it (he’s still trying) because of a former drug addiction that nearly took his life (he overdosed on heroin back in 2004). I doubt going to college would’ve changed his ways. It took a brush with death to do that.

As we wrote in yesterday’s Smack, there was a recent story in Sports Illustrated on a 16-year-old girl named Lexi Thompson, who’s currently playing professionally on the LPGA. She quit school at 12, plays golf all day long and is following in a line of big-time golfers in her family. As for her schooling, Thompson’s being homeschooled at night, a distant second in priority to her swing. In fact, Thompson visited her best friend at UCLA, and it took her one weekend of shadowing an overwhelmed student-athlete to conclude: “college isn’t for me.”

An yet in the same story, Thompson was celebrated for her maturity, for her talent and for a dimple-shining smile that already has her traveling to Manhattan for glitzy photoshoots in tight-fitting skirts.

It’s not about what we want. If we could, most of us would tell everyone to stay two or three years in college, come out as grown men and immediately become impact players in the pros. But for me, it’s more about them. They should be allowed to choose. Football is a different story. My father is a college football coach; I’ve seen too many arrogant 18-year-olds come waltzing in on the first day of camp, and get crumbled up and flicked away. Saturday to Sunday might be an even larger jump.

But high schoolers have the chance to choose – and organizations the chance to decide whether to draft them – in pretty much every other sport. I can live with the one-year rule, just as I would if the owners continued the squeeze, and wrestled two years away from the union. That doesn’t mean I think it’s fair.

What’s your take on the age rule?

Follow Sean on Twitter at @SEANesweeney.

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