clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Is anybody having fun with 'one and done'?

Since the 2005 NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement, the phenomenon known as "one and done" has become a fact of life, and very few seem to like it.


Washington State fans took a real sting to their hopes of returning to the NCAA Tournament in 2011 when Klay Thompson elected to forego his final year of eligibility and enter the NBA Draft. Thompson's departure from WSU was bittersweet. He had elevated his draft stock to be a projected lottery pick and made the same decision any of us would make for ourselves in that situation to cash in on our talents.

Most of us knew during the 2010-11 seasons that it would likely be Thompson's last in Pullman, even though many of us wanted to hold onto denial.  But imagine if 2010-11 would have been Thompson's first season in Pullman and we all would have known from pretty much the moment he committed to WSU that he would be here for one season.

One player. Four to five months.  Better enjoy it while it lasts.

The ‘one-and-done' scenario has become a reality for NCAA basketball thanks to NBA draft restrictions that have been in place since 2005, when former Commissioner David Stern felt that players entering into the NBA needed to have a transition from high school to the NBA.  As part of a 2005 Collective Bargaining Agreement, Article X made sure that some transition occurs by mandating that one playing year from the end of high school must have elapsed before a player is eligible to be drafted, and a player must be 19 years of age (along with other caveats).

Every year since then, inevitably, a few players enter into the college ranks, gather national attention, and leave.  They simply have to go through the motions of being a college student for a few short months before signing a huge contract. worth millions of dollars. Article X basically forces a player to warehouse himself for less than a year in a college setting before allowing him to do what he wanted to in the first place: Turn pro.

The NBA itself is not happy with ‘one and done.' Commissioner Adam Silver has stated a willingness to raise the age limit to basically require two years of college, even if it would require some sort of subsidy. There are clear reasons that the NBA wants the buffer between high school and college. In a nutshell, allowing players to enter directly into the draft turns young adults into millionaires just a few short months after they have attended their senior prom.  Furthermore, it allows for teams to vet a player's skills for an extra year at a higher level before investing a valuable draft pick and millions of dollars in them. At the same time, it does not come across as too heavy-handed by forcing players, many of whom come from difficult financial situations, to have to endure undue time making below their earning potential.

While it seems unfair that the NBA has that much power in its role as the market setter, it isn't the only employer, as a league of franchises, to want that its employees have at least ‘some college' under their belts. And it's not totally unfair for teams to want more information than a high school career before making such sizeable investments.

So why can't the "one-and-done' come to an end, even if the NBA wants it too?

That's complicated.

First, the provision that allows for ‘one and done' is basically enshrined as part of a collective bargaining agreement, it is not easily changed. The NBA players' union has expressed in the past that it would like to see the entry age limit actually lowered and, as this article suggests, once something is part of a collective bargaining agreement, it simply becomes a bargaining chip to be leveraged.

Second, for Silver's plan to work, it would require some cooperation with the NCAA, who is always going to draw a hardline to make sure that everything it sanctions gives the appearance of being amateur, no matter how much some may scoff at that notion.

For the NCAA, the "one-and-done" label casts a huge shadow over the Men's Basketball season and the image it tries to create as a non-profit organization committed to scholarship and athletics. It creates an ugly headline throughout the month of March when they would prefer the focus be on players fighting to stay in the spotlight for one more game and putting out valiant efforts to remain alive.

University of Kentucky Coach John Calipari, who has mastered the current situation the most, has sent mixed signals about "one-and-done."  On the one hand, Calipari wants to do away with the "one-and-done" stigma and rebrand the single year system to "succeed-and-proceed." On the other hand, Calipari and the NCAA are in agreement that "one-and-done" is not an ideal situation and a second year should be required.

Must Reads

It's pretty understandable to see where Calipari is coming from as a coach. You have to sympathize with the players whose accomplishments are being denigrated simply because they are playing by the rules. Yet, what coach wants to try to make a team work in a single year, only to have to rebuild and try it again the next?  A second year of being able to work with the type of talent Calipari brings to Lexington would make the Wildcats that much more dominant.

Fans of college basketball obviously aren't happy about the situation either. If they were, there would not be the plethora of editorials written every single year about how ‘one and done' has put a significant damper on what college basketball should be all about, or what it once was. In past decades, fans had a few years to acquaint themselves with players and follow their careers over the span of at least a couple of seasons. It simply made things more interesting to watch.

Last, and not least even though they are often made that, are the players and their best interests. They are the ones, after all, whose talents and abilities are being put on display, and they should be able to benefit from this the most.  Basketball players put themselves through extreme punishment running and leaping across unforgiving hardwood floors. One misstep, one bad landing and a career with the potential to earn millions of dollars can be over in a flash.  It seems fair that they should have a greater say in when and where they can apply their skills if given the chance.

In sum, it's a difficult situation between several parties that clearly have conflicting interests.  None of these interests can be made completely happy, but a happy medium seems like it should be reached. ‘One-and-done' does not seem to be that happy medium.

What do you see as being that a happy medium?  It seems farfetched that a ‘one-and-done' player will land at WSU anytime in the near future.  However, several 'one and dones' have surfaced in the Pac-12 conference in the past and made notable impacts.  What, if any, impact would current changes have in the WSU's quest to compete in the Pac-12?