I'm thoroughly disappointed that the NBA players' union would agree to raising the minimum draft age to 19 (though it will still be 18 for foreign players, apparently on the grounds that the NCAA is less interested in foreigners).
There's no justification for this. Yes, professional football managed to get away with get away with the Clarett ruling--a legalism based on the fact that there was a collective bargaining agreement. That meant it was up to the union to stand up for the right of legal adults to make their own decision about declaring for the NBA draft. Players routinely go from high school directly into professional baseball--which finances its own minor leagues. You have to be eighteen to drive in a NASCAR or Indy car race, but you can be offered a contract before that, as Childress Racing recently did with a 15-year-old, and those kids are risking a hell of a lot more than personal disappointment. Children too young to drive have played professional golf and tennis, and they routinely sign endorsement deals in the glamour Olympic sports without losing their eligibility.
Indianapolis is the home of the top NBA prospect among next year's high school seniors, Greg Oden, USAToday's 2005 Player of the Year as a junior, who has just been told by people already on the gravy train that he can't board for another year. By all reports this is a kid with a level head on his shoulders. He hadn't announced his intention to turn pro. What does the requirement to wait a year do, besides give him 12 more months to blow out a knee? Tell the fans in Cleveland the world would be better off if LeBron James had sat out a year.
The Pacers Jermaine O'Neal (drafted while he was still short of his 18th birthday) took a lot of flack earlier this year when he claimed there was a racial component to the drive to raise the draft age. I think it's by and large financial, but it's hard to argue race is not at least a factor when nobody seems to care about baseball players, and nobody sheds any tears over the lost childhoods (and more) of young girl skaters and gymnasts. If we're really so all fired concerned about these kids, let's do something for all of them, not just the top athletes: let's put money into public schools and give even the scrawny, geeky ones a real chance.