The NBA and NBA Players Association are expected to agree to move the NBA Draft eligibility age from 19 to 18, paving the way for the return of high school students making the NBA jump, according to sources. with knowledge of the discussions. The lowered age limit for jumps from high school to NBA would go into effect as early as the 2024 NBA Draft.
Commissioner Adam Silver said in July he was “hopeful” that the rule would change in the next collective bargaining cycle, and both sides appear motivated to lower the draft age limit.
The NBA set the age limit of 19 in 2005. Team owners and front office managers couldn’t resist investing high draft picks and tens of millions of dollars in teens just out of high school. There were a lot of success stories: Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, LeBron James and Dwight Howard, among many others, can attest to that.
Not everyone coming out of high school was as good as those players, though, and some were busts in the NBA. So the league’s solution was to make them wait another year before they reached the NBA and made millions of dollars, which led to the term “the one-time rule.”
Since 2005, the sports landscape has undergone dramatic changes, opening more doors for 18-year-olds to earn money before reaching the NBA. The biggest change came in June 2021 when the Supreme Court ruled in a landmark decision that the NCAA could not restrict education-related payments to student-athletes and that college players could be compensated through name, image and likeness matches. Players can also forgo college and earn money by joining the G League or playing abroad.
With a mutual opt-out date of December 15 looming for the NBA and the Players Association under their current CBA, both sides are in the midst of serious talks about key issues that will shape the league’s new CBA. Top NBA and NBPA officials will hold their next in-person meeting at the end of this month, sources said the athletica session that will set the stage for the final result.
Read Shams Charania’s interview with NBPA director Tamika Tremaglio here to learn more about where the NBA and NBPA stand in CBA conversations.
(Photo: Brad Penner/USA Today)