BOSTON — If Adam Silver had a magic wand, the new NBA commissioner wouldn’t cure the franchises he says are financially unhealthy. He wouldn’t ease the tension in the next round of collective bargaining. He wouldn’t create a way to travel to Europe in 30 minutes.
“I’d raise the age,” Silver said.
In a wide-ranging conversation with author Malcolm Gladwell at the 2014 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference on Saturday, Silver touched on a couple of burning issues affecting the NCAA — and, therefore, affecting the NBA. Stressing that players and executives at the college and professional levels share responsibility in decisions that impact them all, Silver said the NBA should include its college counterparts in such conversations as a minimum age and paying college athletes.
“We should be looking out for them,” Silver said. “College sports is a huge business in this country. Purely out of self interest, strong college basketball, I believe, is helpful to the NBA.”
As such, Silver favors raising the NBA’s minimum age to 20 years old and said he is willing to consider “subsidizing” college athletics or athletes in some way. “In a sense, they are being paid,” Silver said, but he acknowledged that star players who stay in school suffer “a lost financial aspect.”
As it is, college athletes have no voice in the NBA’s operations and only a minimal one in the NCAA’s. Current NBA players have an understandable interest in raising the minimum age, since every 19-year-old who enters the NBA potentially means a 35-year-old gets forced into retirement. Raising the age to 20 wouldn’t necessarily push all those players to Duke or Kentucky, however, since the NBA has visions of developing the NBADL into a true minor league.
All of those decisions would affect the NCAA itself as well as incoming players, and Silver said he is reluctant to make such moves unilaterally.
“We can’t establish an age limit,” Silver said. “We have to negotiate with our players. I believe college should have a seat at the table as well and be part of the discussion.”
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