Kareem Abdul-Jabbar spent four years at UCLA and graduated with degrees in English and history before becoming a Hall of Famer. Now, he believes anyone looking to enter the NBA should have that same chance to mature in college.
Speaking at the B’nai B’rith sports banquet in Omaha this week, the six-time MVP campaigned for the NBA to raise the entry age to 21, The Associated Press reports. Abdul-Jabbar feels there is an alarming amount of entitlement in the league.
“They get precocious kids from high school who think they’re rock stars — ‘Where’s my $30 million?’ ” he said. “The attitudes have changed, and the game has suffered because of that, and it has certainly hurt the college game.”
The NBA?s current entry age is 19 after it was raised in 2005. Some of the league’s biggest stars like Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James entered the NBA right out of high school, but according to Abdul-Jabbar, college is when a star can truly develop.
“When I played, the players had to go to college and earn their way onto the court, meaning that there were upperclassmen ahead of them,” he said. “Players who had to go through that and had to go to class, when they got to be professional athletes, they were a lot better qualified.
“Coach John Wooden encouraged me to be more than just a jock,” Abdul-Jabbar added. “He said if I let my intellectual life suffer because I was so into being an athlete that I would be less than I could be. I would tell all students to pursue your dreams but don’t let your education suffer.”
Kareem won three national championships with Wooden at UCLA and six NBA titles with the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers. He retired in 1989 and now is a best-selling author and special assistant to the Lakers.