Will Globalization Kill the NBA’s Stupid “One and Done” Rule?

by Kevin Jon Heller

Globalization’s effect on basketball has been in the news quite a bit recently.  I blogged last week about the Iranian national team coming to Salt Lake City to play in the NBA’s Rocky Mountain Revue.  On Monday, the superb FP Passport blogged about “The NBA’s euro problem” — the fact that more and more NBA players, including American ones, are jumping to the best teams in Europe “thanks to the rising euro and an influx of Russian investment in the European league.”

Still, the proverbial shot heard around the world (sorry to mix my sports references), has to be the fact that Brandon Jennings, the #1 ranked high-school basketball player in the U.S., has decided to play professionally for a European team instead of attending the University of Arizona:

Brandon Jennings has become the first American star to circumvent the NBA’s one-year-out-of-high-school rule and jump directly to professional basketball in Europe.

Jennings, 18, has committed to play for Rome-based Pallacanestro Virtus Roma in the Italian league, his attorney and advisor announced Wednesday.

Jennings, who played for Compton Dominguez and Oak Hill (Va.) Academy, last week bypassed the opportunity to be a so-called “one-and-done” player after committing to Arizona, opting to receive immediate payment for his services in Europe rather than attend a year of college before moving on to the NBA. He is expected to attend an introductory news conference in Rome on July 23.

His advisor, former shoe company representative Sonny Vaccaro, negotiated in Las Vegas during the weekend with Virtus Roma General Manager Dejan Bodiroga. Jennings has also retained an Italian attorney, Giovanni Imbergamo, to work with the team.

Vaccaro described the terms as a “three-year, multimillion-dollar” contract with buyout considerations that will allow Jennings to leave the team and make himself available for the NBA draft when eligible next year. Vaccaro declined to discuss financial specifics of the contract.

I have to confess, I am completely and utterly delighted by Jennings’ decision.  I have never understood why it is constitutional for the NBA Players Union and the NBA to prevent non-minor basketball players from playing in the only professional league in the United States.  I do know, however, that the “one and done” rule has nothing to do with protecting those players — and everything to do with protecting NCAA basketball, which produces hundreds of millions of dollars in profit each year.  I am all for a college education, but Jennings had no intention of completing his degree at Arizona.  For him, the “one and done” rule would have had only two effects: (1) depriving him of signing an NBA contract that, given his talent, would have guaranteed him more than $4 million over three years, quite a bit of money for a kid who grew up in poverty in Compton; and (2) forcing him to risk suffering a career-ending injury for a year, in which case he would have received nothing.

Fortunately, Jennings didn’t passively accept his indentured servitude.  By jumping to Europe, he not only guarantees himself financial security, he also gets to ply his trade against some of the world’s best players.  Indeed, given how much European basketball has improved over the past decade, Jennings will likely play against much better talent in Europe than he would have faced in college. And he is not even neglecting his education: Virtus Roma is making arrangements for him to continue with his schooling — and is also arranging schooling for his 13 year-old brother.

Best of all, Jennings’ contract with Virtus Roma contains a reasonable buy-out clause that will allow him to enter the NBA draft next year.  No wonder, then, that the NBA is having conniptions — this could be the beginning of the end for the “one and done” rule:

Brandon Jennings’ decision to bypass a one-year college commitment and instead sign a professional contract in Europe has trend-setting potential and could help end the NBA’s so-called “one-and-done” requirement for elite prep players, the leader of the NBA players’ union said Wednesday.

“I continue to be against an age limit, I’m against limiting the options these kids have,” union executive director Billy Hunter said. “It’s going to be a very big issue the next time we negotiate. . . . I’m strident in my position to eliminate the age limit.”

The NBA’s current collective bargaining agreement with the union expires after the 2010-11 season.

Hunter said the 2005 approval of a rule that players need to be 19 and a year removed from high school graduation to be drafted came about because it was “the only sticking point to close the deal,” and was inserted at the “insistence” of NBA Commissioner David Stern

[snip]

Vaccaro described Jennings’ unprecedented European choice as “landmark.”

“Brandon Jennings is doing something unpopular for the betterment of the masses, and I believe Congress will pay attention to this and see the foolishness of the ‘one-and-done’ rule,” Vaccaro said. “This will start a chain of events that will lead to the rule’s demise. This year and next, others will follow Brandon Jennings’ decision.”

Let’s hope so.

http://opiniojuris.org/2008/07/22/will-globalization-kill-the-nbas-stupid-one-and-done-rule/

One Response

  1. Maybe this is the beginning of the end for the NCAA basketball leagues as de-facto semi-pro leagues that don’t pay their players. That would be bad news for schools that are paying their players under the table, and good news for college athletes that are serious about getting an education. Perhaps with wider opportunity to play professionally, college sports will regain more of an amateur atmosphere.

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