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The Slow Death of the One-and-Done Rule

By: Dante Camilli


Since the 2006 NBA Draft, top basketball recruits have had to abide by the infamous “One-and-Done” rule established by the NCAA.[1] The rule exists to ensure that high-profile basketball prospects have to be at least nineteen years of age and one year removed from their high school graduation before entering the league.[2] The promulgation of this rule created a guarantee for NCAA basketball programs to have a shot at recruiting top-tier talents to represent their school on the road to the NCAA tournament (and bolster ticket sales). Since the rule’s inception, people have questioned the need for it, as it kept fifteen years’ worth of NBA-ready talents, like Greg Oden and Zion Williamson, from being able to immediately play professional basketball and earn money.[3] The issue with the NCAA refusing to pay its athletes is another problem entirely, but it does bear some relation to the one-and-done rule preventing eighteen year-olds from profiting off their abilities after their graduation from high school.[4]


Duke University head coach Mike Krzyzewski, an advocate for the rule, believes that too much growth happens in that college year for players to have it taken away.[5] Krzyzewski believes that after a year, players like Jayson Tatum are infinitely more ready for the NBA than if you took an eighteen year-old and put them on the court right out of high school.[6] This may be true, but what can be said about players like Luka Doncic?[7] Doncic made an immediate impact at the NBA level in his rookie year at the age of nineteen, without ever playing a minute of NCAA college basketball.[8] Doncic is now tabbed as the next superstar, and potentially the face of the NBA, courtesy of his experience playing professional basketball overseas.[9]


Playing overseas has provided an attractive alternative to playing college basketball before a player is draft eligible. The first iteration of this was Brandon Jennings, who started the trend in 2008, soon after the one-and-done rule was established.[10] Jennings earned nearly $4 million in his year playing in Italy, and was drafted 10th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2009 NBA Draft.[11] This has continued sporadically over the last fifteen years. Two members of the 2020 draft class have also gone that route: RJ Hampton, a potential lottery pick who played in the NBL of Australia and New Zealand, and more famously, LaMelo Ball.[12] Ball is a projected top three pick in the upcoming draft,[13] and played for the NBL’s Illawarra Hawks, in which his games shattered NBL attendance records and 2019 league viewership increased by approximately 11 percent.[14] That kind of star power would have certainly been appreciated by the NCAA, but their constant failure to act on behalf of student-athletes has led us in this direction.


In recent years, the NBA has taken steps to circumvent the one-and-done rule. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has evolved his position in recent years, now believing that the rule should be phased out. As young athletes are starting to consider other decisions to play and make money before the NBA, the league decided to create their own program.[15] In 2018, the NBA created the G-League (NBA Developmental League) Professional Path, which allowed “elite players,” who are not yet eligible for the NBA Draft due to their age, to play a full-season of professional basketball for a minimum salary of $125,000.[16] The class of 2021’s top prospect Jalen Green (draft eligible in 2022) has already elected to join the G-League Professional Path, to a tune of approximately $500,000 and the potential for endorsement deals.[17] The prospect of playing college basketball has lost its allure to players who are almost certainly one-and-dones, as making money is much more valuable than taking some couple classes in the fall to remain eligible to try and raise their draft stock on the court.[18]


The NCAA is a conglomerate, and college sports fans are always going to support their alma maters strongly when it’s game time, and the NCAA will continue to make nearly a billion dollars every year.[19] However, top prospects are beginning to shift to the camp of foregoing the NCAA more frequently to get paid. As this change continues, and players are selected to the G-League Professional Path, or decide to go overseas, college basketball will lose its allure to more and more basketball recruits. The growth of these new options will either lead to a steady decline in college basketball’s popularity or finally force the NCAA’s hand in paying players for the revenue they generate. Regardless, the end of the one-and-done era is upon us, and as basketball fans, it may be for the best.



References:


[1] Rachel Stark-Mason, The One-and-Done Dilemma, NCAA.org (Fall 2018), https://www.ncaa.org/static/champion/the-one-and-done-dilemma/


[2] Id.


[3] Id.


[4] Brakton Booker, College Athletes Are Now Closer to Getting Paid After NCAA Board Oks Plan, NPR (April 29, 2020), https://www.npr.org/2020/04/29/847781624/college-players-are-now-closer-to-getting-paid-after-ncaa-board-oks-plan#:~:text=In%20a%20significant%20shift%20for,does%20not%20pay%20them%20directly


[5] Rachel Stark-Mason, The One-and-Done Dilemma, NCAA.org (Fall 2018), https://www.ncaa.org/static/champion/the-one-and-done-dilemma/


[6] Id.


[7] Ricky O’Donnell, The NBA will be Luka Doncic’s league soon, SB Nation (August 10, 2020), https://www.sbnation.com/nba/2020/8/10/21360920/luka-doncic-dallas-mavercisk-highlights-stats-bubble-superstar-face-of-nba


[8] Id.


[9] Id.


[10] Kevin Flaherty, Top Prospects who decided to go straight overseas, 247 Sports (May 28, 2019), https://247sports.com/Article/Top-recruits-to-play-overseas-RJ-Hampton-New-Zealand-NBL-132375603/


[11] Id.


[12] Kyle Boone, 2020 NBA Draft: LaMelo Ball, Killian Hayes, and Deni Avdija lead a loaded international class, CBS (May 12, 2020), https://www.cbssports.com/nba/news/2020-nba-draft-lamelo-ball-killian-hayes-and-deni-avdija-lead-a-loaded-international-class/


[13] Raphielle Johnson, 2020 NBA Mock Draft, Volume One, Yahoo! Sports (September 11, 2020), https://sports.yahoo.com/2020-nba-mock-draft-volume-212730693.html


[14] NBL Crowds Soar as Clubs Unveil City Jerseys, NBL (November 20, 2019), https://nbl.com.au/media-release/nbl-crowds-soar-as-clubs-unveil-city-jerseys


[15] Rick Maese, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says days of one-and-done players will soon be over, The Washington Post (May 9, 2019), https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2019/05/09/nba-commissioner-adam-silver-days-one-and-done-players-will-be-over-soon/


[16] Frequently Asked Questions: NBA G League Professional Path and Select Contracts, NBA G League (n.d.), https://gleague.nba.com/professionalpath/


[17] Gary Washburn, Top high school basketball prospect skipping college for G League a problem for NCAA, Boston Globe (April 16, 2020), https://www.bostonglobe.com/2020/04/16/sports/top-high-school-basketball-prospect-skipping-college-g-league-problem-ncaa/


[18] Rick Maese, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says days of one-and-done players will soon be over, The Washington Post (May 9, 2019), https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2019/05/09/nba-commissioner-adam-silver-days-one-and-done-players-will-be-over-soon/


[19] Christina Gough, National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) revenue by segment 2012-2019, Statista (March 20, 2020), https://www.statista.com/statistics/219605/ncaa-revenue-breakdown/#:~:text=The%20statistic%20shows%20the%20revenue,and%20marketing%20rights%20fees%20segment.

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