David Stern probably thought he?d put an end to the high school vs. college debate by changing the NBA?s early entry rule.
Two years ago the commissioner said no high school player could enter the draft without being at least one year past his high school graduation.
That idea was initially as popular as the new dress code rule.
The change enraged fans who believed the rule kept kids from earning a living, and furthermore, lowered the amount of talented players allowed to enter the league.
What the rule did was add fuel to an already flaming fire.
And if the recent discussions concerning the polarizing rule are considered mild debate, this year?s playoffs may lead to a full-fledged duel.
The 2007 playoffs began as a case-study comparing prospective successes of players who went to college, and those that made the leap from high school to the pros.
Perhaps the most glaring example is LeBron James. James made the jump seem easy and is in the playoffs for the second consecutive year. He?s about to take his team to the conference finals one year after getting to game seven of the conference semi-finals.
But LeBron is a freak of nature. And as a freak, he serves as an exception to a quickly emerging rule.
Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O?Neal.
Despite being great players, this quartet shows a disheartening trend: A lack of winning.
Kobe may seem out of place because he owns three rings, but those successes came as Shaquille O?Neal?s (who played three years of college ball) sidekick.
Since O?Neal?s departure, Kobe has missed the playoffs entirely once, and led his team to first-round losses twice.
McGrady is rapidly becoming synonymous with first-round disappointments; Garnett hasn?t played more than 82 games for three consecutive years; Jermaine?s team is in utter disarray, and rumors persist that he?s ready to contribute elsewhere.
The other side of the spectrum, however, points to teams either on the rise, or already on top.
The Pistons, Spurs, Jazz and Cavs ? all favorites in their respective match-ups ? have just one high-school athlete each, and the aforementioned LeBron is the only one getting playing time.
The teams losing those series are dominated by college athletes too.
The Bulls have built around successful college players, as have the Nets. Amare Stoudemire of the Suns is sans college experience, but has Shawn Marion and Steve Nash by his side.
The Warriors? Baron Davis and Jason Richardson both went to college, but their inevitable playoff exit is tied directly to the inconsistency of high-schoolers Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson and the disappearance of prep-to-pro player Monta Ellis.
Whether the difference lies in the lack of athletic development, basketball IQ, or overall immaturity, the disparity among the players is as evident as the discrepancy among the teams.
Stern?s decision wasn?t received glowingly, but the evidence supports his choice.
Fans may be forced to wait for highly touted-prospects to help their teams, but their patience will definitely pay off.
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Written by Dan Hanner on Sep 29, 2014
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