Is the new NBA age limit a good idea?

by on July 30, 2005 at 5:04 am in Sports | Permalink

Here are the data.  The conclusions?

…college education does not appear to diminish the probability of a player getting in trouble with the law. In fact, some of the most notorious NBA players are those with college degrees, while many others have three years of a college education…actually, the data suggests that premiere high school seniors might be better off skipping college altogether, perhaps in order to avoid the disturbing external influences that afflict many college basketball programs…

No matter the interpretation, it doesn’t appear that the recent decision by the NBA and NBPA to raise the age of NBA draft eligibility from 18 to 19 (or one year out of high school) will improve the overall law-abidingness of NBA players. If anything, actually, this data suggests that it might have the opposite effect.

Second, players appear more likely to get in trouble with the law towards the middle and end of their careers than at the start. This could be interpreted in a number of ways. For instance, it might suggest that the “pressures of being an NBA player” are more manageable at the start of one’s career, perhaps because the player is less autonomous and more reliant on the team. This interpretation is bolstered by the financial stake of NBA teams in facilitating the transition of their players from life as an amateur to life as a pro. Second, and related to the preceding interpretation, new NBA players are often surrounded by veterans in their late 20s and 30s who can monitor them and serve as de facto “big brothers.” The presence of these veteran players is obviously something distinct from the college experience, where the “veterans” are often just 20 or 21-years old, and are thus not likely to be as well-equipped in steering their 18 and 19-year teammates away from nefarious influences. Alternatively, the data may suggest that as the player accumulates wealth and notoriety, he is more likely to succumb to these “pressures.”

Thanks to Todd Zywicki for the pointer.  Here is my earlier post on age limits in sports.

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