RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Here's a throwback for NBA fans.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
DAVID STERN: The Charlotte Hornets select Kobe Bryant from Lower Merion High School in Pennsylvania.
MARTIN: High school, you heard that, right? Phenoms like Kobe and LeBron used to come straight out of high school into the NBA. That was then. Now, the NBA draft has something called the one-and-done rule. To be eligible, players have to be at least 19 years old and one year removed from high school. So the best of the best play just one year in college before going off to the NBA - which is silly, says commentator Kevin Blackistone. He's a journalism professor and a contributor to ESPN. And he talked with us in our studios.
KEVIN BLACKISTONE: How you doing?
MARTIN: What was the rationale for the one-and-done rule when it came out?
BLACKISTONE: The rationale for it was that teenagers were too immature - physically, emotionally - to put up with the rigors of the NBA. And therefore, they would have to stay in college for at least a year or hit that age requirement before being eligible to play in the NBA.
MARTIN: The NBA got LeBron James, the king of the court, because he was able to go immediately from high school. With this one-and-done rule, aren't they just denying themselves access to more LeBron Jameses?
BLACKISTONE: They absolutely are.
MARTIN: So why do they do it?
BLACKISTONE: Because they can get LeBron James as a seasoned athlete, as a college athlete, and also covered by the national media in college. So his stardom is...
MARTIN: Oh, it builds their profile.
BLACKISTONE: Sure, builds up their profile, their resume. And so they don't really see an incentive to bring LeBron James in straight from high school, as opposed to after his freshman year in college.
MARTIN: So you don't like this rule I understand?
BLACKISTONE: Oh, I think it's completely un-American.
BLACKISTONE: Can you imagine you or I being offered an opportunity to work in the profession that we work in, getting ready to come out of high school and having to turn it down, not because we're not good enough but just because we're not of age or haven't been in a journalism college or communications school for a year?
MARTIN: Oh, and - right. We should just point out, this is not about the NBA wanting to make sure that these athletes have a year of college under their belt.
BLACKISTONE: No. Oh, absolutely not.
MARTIN: This is not about getting a higher education at all.
BLACKISTONE: No, there is nothing altruistic here. When you have athletes who - they know they're only going to be there for a year, they only have to be as serious about their studies as need be to remain eligible in order to play during their season and then they're gone, it does make a mockery of higher education.
MARTIN: Is it likely to change?
BLACKISTONE: I think it is likely to change. We've just heard in the last week or two that Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner, has met with some people who are running college basketball.
Unfortunately, part of the discussion is that they want to turn the situation into one where high school kids who are ready for the NBA can come straight out of high school and into the NBA or they have to spend at least two years in college before they can come play in the NBA, which is still problematic. To me, that still...
MARTIN: Why? That seems like a compromise.
BLACKISTONE: It's a compromise, but it also seems to me to be a constraint on free labor because why should you then just have to spend two years in college? And again, it doesn't help the college situation in terms of the mission of higher education if in fact that's one of your concerns here, which I don't think is a great concern of anyone.
MARTIN: Kevin Blackistone is a sports commentator for us here at NPR and at ESPN. Thank you so much for talking with us about this.
BLACKISTONE: Thank you for the invite.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.