Los Angeles Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar believes the NBA should raise its minimum age requirement to 21 years old.
According to the league’s career scoring leader, there is a strong sense of entitlement among many young rookies who come into the NBA.
“They get precocious kids from high school who think they’re rock stars— ‘Where’s my $30 million?’ The attitudes have changed, and the game has suffered because of that, and it has certainly hurt the college game.”
The former Lakers great spent Wednesday at Boys Town, a nationally acclaimed home for troubled youth. He spoke to kids about his time at UCLA, where he played on three championship teams and eventually graduated with degrees in English and History.
“Coach John Wooden encouraged me to be more than just a jock,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “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.”
In 2005, the NBA changed its entry age minimum to 19. This forced players who would have otherwise jumped from high school to the professional ranks to spend one year in college.
The move was met with a lot of backlash from people who believed there should be no age requirement.
Abdul-Jabbar takes a different stance.
“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.”
The Lakers legend added that those players who don’t consider college the right place for them should be forced to play in a minor or development league until they are able to meet the age requirement.
When asked about LeBron James, the superstar who became the poster boy for skipping college for the NBA, Abdul-Jabbar had this to say:
“He would have come into the professional ranks very polished, given his innate gifts,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “Having to go through a college system would have made him a total gem as soon as he stepped out of the college ranks."