The issue of age will certainly become a clash in the next round of labor negotiations between the National Basketball Players Association (“NBPA”) and the National Basketball Association (“NBA”), as the union is expected to opt out of its current collective bargaining agreement in 2017. The current rules of eligibility are contained in Article X, of the 2011 NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”), and state as follows:
Section 1. Player Eligibility.
(a) No player may sign a Contract or play in the NBA unless he has been eligible for selection in at least one (1) NBA Draft. No player shall be eligible for selection in more than two (2) NBA Drafts.
(b) A player shall be eligible for selection in the first NBA Draft with respect to which he has satisfied all applicable requirements of Section1(b)(i) below and one of the requirements of Section 1(b)(ii) below:
(i) The player (A) is or will be at least nineteen (19) years of age during the calendar year in which the Draft is held, and (B) with respect to a player who is not an international player (defined below), at least one (1) NBA Season has elapsed since the player’s graduation from high school (or, if the player did not graduate from high school, since the graduation of the class with which the player would have graduated had he graduated from high school); and
(ii) (A) The player has graduated from a four-year college or university in the United States (or is to graduate in the calendar year in which the Draft is held) and has no remaining intercollegiate basketball eligibility; or
(B) The player is attending or previously attended a four-year college or university in the United States, his original class in such college or university has graduated (or is to graduate in the calendar year in which the Draft is held), and he has no remaining intercollegiate basketball eligibility; or
(C) The player has graduated from high school in the United States, did not enroll in a four-year college or university in the United States, and four (4) calendar years have elapsed since such player’s high school graduation; or
(D) The player did not graduate from high school in the United States, and four (4) calendar years have elapsed since the graduation of the class with which the player would have graduated had he graduated from high school; or
(E) The player has signed a player contract with a “professional basketball team not in the NBA” (defined below) that is located anywhere in the world, and has rendered services under such contract prior to the January 1 immediately preceding such Draft; or
(F) The player has expressed his desire to be selected in the Draft in a writing received by the NBA at least sixty (60) days prior to such Draft (an “Early Entry” player); or
(G) If the player is an “international player” (defined below), and notwithstanding anything contained in subsections (A) through (F) above:
(1) The player is or will be twenty-two (22) years of age during the calendar year of the Draft; or
(2) The player has signed a player contract with a “professional basketball team not in the NBA” (defined below) that is located in the United States, and has rendered services under such contract prior to the Draft; or
(3) The player has expressed his desire to be selected in the Draft in a writing received by the NBA at least sixty (60) days prior to such Draft (an “Early Entry” player).
(c) For purposes of this Article X, an “international player” is a player: (i) who has maintained a permanent residence outside of the United States for at least the three (3) years prior to the Draft, while participating in the game of basketball as an amateur or as a professional outside of the United States; (ii) who has never previously enrolled in a college or university in the United States; and (iii) who did not complete high school in the United States.
(d) For purposes of this Article X, a “professional basketball team not in the NBA” means any team that pays money or compensation of any kind – in excess of a stipend for living expenses – to a basketball player for rendering services to such team.
The current eligibility rules were established in the 2005 CBA, which expired in 2011. In 2011 the current CBA was renegotiated after a player lockout and changes were made to the draft rules, but the draft age restrictions remained the same.
There has been and there continues to be much controversy about age restrictions in the NBA. Spencer Haywood (“Haywood”) challenged the NBA’s “four-year rule,” which ultimately was upset by the United State Supreme Court on antitrust grounds, in a 7-2 decision in Haywood’s favor in 1971. Following the Haywood decision, “the NBA instituted a “hardship” rule that allowed underclassmen to be drafted as long as they proved that they suffered from financial hardship.” “Needless to say, such declarations were a mere formality, as noted by Sport writer Jackie Lapin: ‘Almost anyone who has been any good at the game in the past decade would qualify – with the probable exception of Bill Bradley, the banker’s son.’”
The hardship rule was followed by the entry into the NBA of high schoolers, including Moses Malone and Darryl Dawkins. The influx of high school students caused considerable controversy, with NBA Commissioner David Stern (“Stern”) declaring that he wanted the league’s scouts and executives out of high school gyms and that too many urban Americans incorrectly saw the NBA as a sure path to fame and financial security.
Finally in the 2005 CBA, the NBA and NBPA agreed that all drafted players must be at least 19 years old during the calendar year of the draft and one year removed from graduation of their high school class. Stern, before retiring as Commissioner, said “[o]ur rule is that they won’t be eligible for the draft until they’re 19. They can play in Europe, they can play in the D-League, they can go to college. This is a not a social program, this is a business rule for us. The NFL has a rule which requires three years of college. So the focus is often on ours, but it’s really not what we require in college. We would love to add a year, but that’s not something that the players’ association has been willing to agree to.” “Stern said the league’s draft requirement is often misreported as forcing players to spend a year in college.”
Current NBA Commissioner Adam Silver (“Silver”) announced in April 2014 that “pushing back the league’s age minimum to 20 is at the top of his priority list.” “If we’re going to be successful in raising the age from 19 to 20, part and parcel in those negotiations goes to the treatment of players on those college campuses and closing the gap between what their scholarships cover and their expenses,” Silver said. “We haven’t looked specifically at creating a financial incentive for them to stay in college. That’s been an option that has been raised over the years, but that’s not something that is on the table right now.”
NBPA Attorney Gary Kohlman (“Kohlman”) said he expects that the union and the NBA will clash on the age limit for the draft in the next round of collective bargaining. The union will seek to have the age limit for the draft lowered from 19, or eliminated altogether, while NBA owners have expressed a desire to raise the age limit to at least 20.
Kohlman questions why the best path to professionalism for promising young basketball players is an NCAA system in which universities collude to limit their compensation while teenagers in other professions face no such limitations. Kohlman also indicated that the age limit in its current form is un-American and racially biased.
“Capitalism means that if you’re 17, 18 years old and you’re a geek and you want to drop out of college and invent Apple or something else, you can do it. In this country, you can do that. And there’s nothing stopping you from doing it. If you’re an unbelievable blues singer at 17, 18, 19 years old, you can go out and make a fortune.”
If they were white and hockey players, they would be out there playing. If they were white and baseball players, they would be out there playing. Because most of them are actually African-American and are in a sport and precluded from doing it, they have to go into this absurd world of playing for one year. That’s just total complete hypocrisy.”
The one year out of high school rule or 19 years old age restriction relative to the NBA draft is referred to as the “one-and-done” rule. The NBA has been steadfast in its position that league officials desire more time to evaluate prospects as making the wrong choice has cost teams millions in wasted contracts. NCAA President Mark Emmert has recently said “I have not been shy about my displeasure with the one-and-done rule.” Duke Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski has said “the NBA age limit has had a dramatic effect on the college game. I still believe if a kid wanted to go out of high school, he should go out of high school. And if he comes to college, he should be here for two years. I don’t think it’s a good rule, one-and-done. But I would never want to deprive a great talent, if they didn’t want to go to school, from going into the NBA. I think to make them go to school is a mistake for a limited amount of time.” Even Coach John Calipari in his forthcoming book, Players First: Coaching From the Inside Out, indicates that the NBA should come together with the players’ association to agree that no player comes into the league until at least two years after his high school class has graduated.
The University of Kentucky (“Kentucky”) has been the major benefactor of the one-and-done rule due to the success of Coach John Calipari’s (“Calipari”) recruiting. Kentucky has won 80.4% of their games in Calipari’s first five seasons (2009-10 to 2013-14). Kentucky was undefeated in regular season play during the 2014-2015 campaign. No coach has employed more one-and-done athletes than Calipari. At the University of Memphis, Calipari had three one-and-done players (Shawnee Williams, Derrick Rose, and Tyreke Evans). When he moved on to Kentucky in 2009, one-and-done players became a staple of his squads. Of the 43 one-and-done players drafted from 2010 to 2014, 13 of these players were recruited by Calipari at Kentucky. 
According to the Department of Education, men’s basketball at Kentucky generated $16.7 million in revenue the year before John Calipari arrived. Across the next four seasons, revenue increased each year, with the team earning $23.7 million in revenue in 2012-13 (the last year data is reported).
Most players need some experiences to develop the tools necessary to compete in the NBA—one or two seasons of college, a year in the NBA development league, or a year playing internationally in Europe or elsewhere. However, most players support the ability of potential NBA players to pursue their livelihood by allowing high school graduate players to apply for the draft.
It has been prognosticated that if the NBA moves toward a two-year rule for players coming out of high school, more players might consider challenging the NBA’s age requirement on legal grounds the way Haywood did in 1971. John Feinstein in his Washington Post article “College Basketball’s One-and-Done Rule Must be Done with Immediately” said: “[i]t is time for the one-and-done rule to go away. It is a pox. It is draining much of the joy out of college basketball for players, coaches and fans. It has made a complete mockery of the notion that the best college basketball players have any intention of graduating. They are mercenaries passing through only because the rules force them to be there.”
Another alternative is to adopt a new model, comparable to the MLB baseball rule, wherein any player graduating from high school is eligible for the draft. Once he finds out where he is drafted and what kind of money he can make to turn pro, he then decides to either turn professional or go to college.
The one and done’s don’t go to college, they represent the college. As Arn Tellem recently said in his New York Times article “Turn One-and-Done Into None-and-Done,” “college seasoning doesn’t help general managers make better draft decisions. Nor does cosseted campus life prepare players for life in the NBA.”
The NBA’s “one-and-done” rule continues to be a highly debated topic, and assures to be a hot issue in the next round of the NBA’s collective bargaining negotiations. While some see the rule as a means for NBA clubs to better evaluate talent, the result of the rule actually creates a suppression of an athletes’ right to work. The Congressional intent of the National Labor Relations Act, and its subsequent amendments, was to increase workers’ rights and help to balance the bargaining power during collective bargaining agreements.
While there may be some procompetitive justifications for the “one-and-done” rule, such as increased player-scouting efficiencies and decrease in the potential for draft “busts,” the truth is that not every player that is drafted will pan out even if a two-year post-high school rule were implemented. Drafts “misses” occur in every sport, regardless of a league’s draft rules. Because a player is allowed to play in the NBA Developmental League or for a professional team internationally during their one-year post-high school exile, the “one-and-done” rule does little more than prevent an athlete from maximizing their earning potential in a league where the average length of a NBA career is 4.8 years.
Age and its limitations undoubtedly will be a bargaining chip that is utilized in the next round of collective bargaining negotiations.
 Zillgit, Jeff, “Hunter’s Memo to Players Details NBA CBA,” USA TODAY, December 7, 2011, http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/basketball/nba/story/2011-12-07/hunters-memo-to-players-details-nba-cba/51722458/1
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 Calipari, John, “Kentucky’s John Calipari: Why ‘One and Done’ Must End,” The Wall Street Journal, April 4, 2014, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303847804579477600580932452
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 Feinstein, John, “College Basketball’s One-and-Done Rule Must Be Done With Immediately,” The Washington Post, January 31, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/colleges/college-basketballs-one-and-done-rule-must-be-done-with-immediately/2015/01/31/e465091e-a8e1-11e4-a2b2-776095f393b2_story.html
 Tellem, Arn, “Turn One-and-Done Into None-and-Done,” The New York Times, June 28, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/29/sports/basketball/turn-one-and-done-into-none-and-done.html?_r=0