NBPA chief is 'adamantly opposed to' raising the NBA age limit

NBPA chief is 'adamantly opposed to' raising the NBA age limit

Recently, new’ish NBA commissioner Adam Silver mused aloud in an interview with Gentleman’s Quarterly about the potential for raising the league’s age limit from 19 to either 20 or 21 years of age. The change would come when the league’s owners and players attempt to hammer out a collective bargaining agreement in 2017, as Silver noted that the league’s owners only shelved previous plans to raise the age limit (which was agreed upon in 2005) because it wanted to resolve the ongoing lockout with alacrity.

(After wasting nearly five months’ worth of time with failed negotiations, but, whatever.)

Such early declarations regarding negotiating stances weren’t the norm some three years before the 2011 or 1998 NBA lockouts, but because of Silver’s recent ascendency and the hiring of new’ish National Basketball Players Assocation president Michele Roberts, both sides are throwing off the scent now. The owners walloped the players in the last round of negotiations; the league’s new TV deal and massive raises in valuations for NBA teams have the league’s players and even fans looking at the one-sided 2011 deal with a crooked eye.

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To Roberts, who spoke with Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix even before the GQ interview came out, the age minimum talking point is completely and utterly off the table:

“I’m adamantly opposed to [raising the age minimum],” Roberts said. “I’ve been practicing law for 30 years. One of the beauties of being in that job is that I can practice until I lose my mind or die. That is not the case with athletes. You have a limited life to make money as a basketball player. Anything that limits those opportunities is distressing to me. I view [the age minimum] as just another device that serves to limit a players' ability to make a living.”

“[The owners] are never going to stop until they get a hard cap. With the new TV deal, I’d like to think that they are content. I can’t imagine they are going to want a more favorable division of the BRI. I can’t imagine their mouths will form those words. The last deal was quite the coup for them.”

Roberts was not at the head of the table when the NBPA had their tails handed to them in 2011, so she can candidly go on record as to how badly the players lost in their last battle with the owners that had spent the previous six years handing out terrible contracts that were roundly criticized at the time.


Thank goodness for that.

As Roberts notes, Silver still somehow seems disappointed that he didn’t negotiate a total and complete victory in 2011, merely taking billions away from the players in a revenue shift, limiting the length of guaranteed deals, and keeping players away from paychecks for 16 games. The plans to attempt to implement an increased age limit and hard salary cap were shelved in order to expedite a return to action, Silver acknowledged, and those two ideas appear to be his particular great white whales as he counts down the days toward re-negotiating with players in 2017.

Earlier in November I wrote of the frustration of having to balance my selfish leanings as a fan against the sort of principled opinions that come with not being an awful person. I don’t really want to see a 19-year old being trained on the NBA’s time, and by extension my personal dimes, but if an NBA team wants to hire an employee at the age of 18, 19 or 20 they should be able to. Not only would the subsequent top-level training be better for him as a professional, but it certainly scans better than forcing a hypothetical player into earning more billions for the illegal free labor scam that is the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Roberts correctly reminds us that NBA players are more valuable to their teams at age 18 or 19 than they’d usually be past their mid-30s, and for the league to argue that taking away a year of employment just for the supposed health of the game itself is completely dismissing the needs of the players that make up their league. When no free agent offers come down the pike for a 35-year old some years from now, he may very well rue those one or two years of free work that he gave to Duke University from ages 18-20.


Of course, it’s no basketball player’s inherent American right to play in a private basketball league, in this case the NBA. A prospect leaving high school has every right to join several American minor leagues or any number of top flight international clubs. The NBA and its team owners have every right, within a private league, to attempt to put language inside an agreement collectively bargained with the union that would prohibit anyone under the age of 20 (or higher) from playing with their clubs.

The question is, why would they want to?

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Kelly Dwyer

is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!