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One and Done

March 13, 2014

There was a great deal of talk over the recently concluded NBA All-Star weekend about the current one and done rule within the league. Let me give you a quick definition of the rule. Basically it states that potential players in the league have to wait a calendar year after high school before they are eligible to be drafted. The term “one and done” refers to players who play just one year of college ball before entering the draft. 

What usually amps up the talk of the current rule are comments made by former players. This year, it was Jerry West and Charles Barkley who made statements saying that the quality of play in the NBA is the worst it has ever been. They then went on to say that the primary reason for this is that there are too many guys coming into the league who have played zero or one year of college ball (the NBA used to allow players enter the league right out of high school, i.e., LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, and Kevin Garnett. 

After these comments are made, sports media pundits come out with claims that players who have only been out of college for one year aren’t mature enough, physically or emotionally, for the rigors of the NBA season. This, they say, is bringing down the overall quality of play in the NBA. 

I am not buying it. For a number of reasons. Lets take a look at the 2014 all-star rosters. 

Kyrie Irving of Duke

There were a total of 25 players names as all-stars this season. I wondered, how much time did each all-star spend in college before turning pro. As it turns out, 13 of the 25 players played one year of college or less. In other words, over half of the all-stars did not need any more college to make themselves better professional players. 

You are going to have to be a strong debater to convince me that Kevin Durant needed another year at Texas or that LeBron James needed to pick a college for a year. Would 35 more college games at Syracuse really have made Carmello Anthony a better pro? Kyrie Irving played a total of 11 college basketball games at Duke. He was just named the NBA All-Star MVP. This paragraph alone should convince you that four years, or even two years, of college is not needed to be a worthy NBA player. By the way, only two of the 25 all-stars played four years of college ball. 

Let me spend some time with the other end of the spectrum. With the all stars who spent three or four years in college. The list includes Dwayne Wade, Steph Curry, Joakim Noah, Paul Millsap, and Roy Hibbert. This is a talented group of players but they are not in the same rarefied air as Lebron, Kobe, Durant, and company. I would like to ask West and Barkley where the large group of players who are flourishing in the league because they had more time to grow and mature in college? 

Let me throw another argument out there. Is the NBA morally right to bar legal age adults, men old enough to join the US Armed Forces, from earning a legal living. All because you think, without any proven evidence, that they are lowering the quality of play in the league. The NBA’s owners may believe that they will be improving the overall product if they start barring players under 20. But it would be a misguided decision.  

Transgender Controversy 

Continuing with my recent writings concerning issues within sports, let me spend a few minutes on the  transgender issue. Perhaps no transgender issue is more controversial than the idea of transgender women competing in athletics. I read about it again last week when a female transgender CrossFit athlete was told, in writing, by the CrossFit governing body that she cannot compete as a woman. The woman has since filed suit. 

CrossFit is sticking with what seems like a simple rule. They are saying that since the person in question was born as a male, she will need to complete in the Men’s Division. Their statement noted that it is a fundamental, fact is that a male competitor who has a sex reassignment procedure still has a genetic makeup that confers a physical and physiological advantage over women. It also spoke of not wanting to waver from their commitment to ensure the fairness of the competition. 

They also noted that transgender women were welcomed to compete as long as they are in the correct division. 

At first glance, it seems easy to defend what CrossFit is saying. But there seems to be a consensus in the medical world that after some period of time on hormone replacement therapy (HRT), transgender individuals should be allowed to compete in accordance with their legal gender, and not their born gender. 

Trans athlete Renee Richards, in the 1970s

I was curious as to how the International Olympic Committee (IOC) settled the issue of transgender athletes.  The IOC rules boil down to three basic points: 1) They must have had gender reassignment surgery. 2) They must have legal recognition of their assigned gender. 3)They must have at least two years of hormone therapy. 

Given these conditions, the IOC does not consider being transgender an unfair advantage. 

Pro transgender athletes often throw out the following questions. If being a female transgender athlete is such an unfair competitive advantage, why aren’t transgender women dominant at the highest levels? Why aren’t there more of them? They state that the fact that we see none of these things suggests that there really isn’t a competitive advantage. 

Good questions but I would answer that by wondering if the real reason we have not seen them excel is that not enough time has passed yet. In professional sports, any tiny advantage translates into the difference between a win and a loss. If being a transgender woman translates into a substantial competitive advantage, you would expect to see them consistently dominating at the top levels of their sports. In fact, we see exactly the opposite: Professional female transgender athletes are exceedingly rare. 

I have a feeling it will not be long before this issue hits the mainstream media soon. It will take a transgender woman to emerge in a televised sport like tennis or golf. It will happen and I am still not sure how I feel on the issue. Guess I will wait and see.






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