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Brandon Jennings and the end of the NBA’s literacy test


After the US Civil War, many Southern states enacted laws to disenfranchise newly freed blacks from exercising their right to vote. According to a US Department of Justice primer on voting, these laws sought to evade the 15th Amendment and limit the voice of black people in the political process.

Among these laws was a “literacy test”. This test, used in states such as Alabama, ensured “uneducated” blacks could not vote in the general election. These tests continued for nearly 100 years before the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Forty years later, another literacy test was enacted. Fortunately, the premise behind this test is being attacked only three years into its existence.

In 2005, the NBA enacted a rule stating potential entries into the NBA draft had to be 19 years old or one year removed from their high school graduation. Under this rule, it was inferred that prospective draft picks would apply and be accepted to one of the hundreds of colleges throughout the US. There these NBA hopefuls would ply their trade until they turned 19. This, of course, has been the route taken by Greg Oden, Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley, O.J. Mayo, and numerous others.

But what if a high school graduate lacked the academics to be accepted into college? What if he failed his entrance exams? Of course, the inferred answer was that even the most marginal student would be accepted to at least one college. As long as he met someone’s minimum standard.

What I never heard asked in all the discussion about the NBA’s rule was, “What does one year of college have to do with playing basketball at the professional level?”.

The answer, of course, is nothing.

Now Brandon Jennings, an 18-year old prep star from Virginia, is considering spending his necessary post-high school year playing professional basketball in Europe before hopefully declaring for the 2009 NBA draft. Jennings is the first American high school player to discuss the European option and, in my opinion, should not be the last.

So with the first viable threat its existence, let us ask again: what is the true meaning behind the NBA’s 19 and older rule? Is it seriously an attempt to improve the NBA skill level by having players play a year in a college system? Is it a way to give a bump to the NCAA so that they may profit on the hype of one-and-done college freshmen? Or worse yet, is it a way to purposefully deny those lacking in academic ability the opportunity to play in the NBA? Is it a disguised attempt to “clean up” the league by closing the door to prospects who hail from a disadvantaged educational systems and who might see basketball as their only way out of their current socio-economic environment?

Hopefully Brandon Jennings follows through with his idea of playing in Europe. Hopefully he makes good overseas and is drafted high in the 2009 draft. Hopefully he is not the last to question the NBA’s literacy test.


4 comments on Brandon Jennings and the end of the NBA’s literacy test

  1. I’ll tell you why you are right. Its a labor issue. It is an absolute crime that any adult male in this country cannot apply the trade of which he has the most talent to the utmost. What offends me is that it is not the law of the land, but of the league, and that they are allowed to discriminate. I think it is just as big a shame as anyone else that there is a significant percentage of our youth who are being passed over or under-served by the education system to the point that they cannot find their way into a college. God knows the acceptance standards for many of these institutions are ridiculously lax as it is. But these young men, regardless of their success academically, will be asked by society to contribute in some economic fashion. They will, in short, be expected to work. That there are a group of people (for the most part wealthy white men) who are actively preventing them from working at the trade that they are best at is ridiculous. I do not believe that forcing these kids into a year of college is giving significant help to the college game or the NBA.

  2. Paine,

    Great to see you are still around. Man, I miss the Cobra brigade. I was really looking forward to your insight on the gun rights ruling. Anyway, thanks for chiming in. You are more than welcome to swing by anytime.

    As for the issue at hand, again I blame it all on The Man.

  3. I think the bad thing about this whole 1 and done way of dealing with NCAA is that the NBA kind of forced out a ruling prior to really thinking it through.

    If Brandon Jennings does not possess the basic aptitude to sign on with a junior college, then how is he passing high school? What does that say about his school that he has graduated through their academic program yet he cannot qualify to provide a big name college with a year of revenue generated by his name alone.

    The “beauty” of the rule is that you hope to push the student athlete into a position where he can set himself up for the future, so that if he does become the next Korleone Young, he has some college background to fall back to. Or he has a skillset to work from if his life revolves around a bus schedule to take him from 1 NBDL stop to another.

    The “ugly” of the rule is that the league is for the most part a black athlete league. So any rule coming down from above, a mostly white “above” forces the issue and pressure of race into the equation.

    The rule in the NFL has kept boys from ruining their under developed bodies. 2 years removed from high school I believe is the NFL rule (or is it 3?). The thing is, the rule has been in effect for the NFL for as long as I can remember and anyone who has challenged it (Mike Williams and Maurice Clarett), well, you can see what happened to them. Out of the league after 1 season.

    It saves the teams from drafting on 100% potential rather than watching a Kevin Love or a Derrick Rose dominate their prospective conferences, only to confirm their real draft status or that it hasn’t changed since they got the diploma from high school.

    I’m in favor or a 2 year rule like the NFL or no rule at all. When you turn 18 all bets are off, you should be able to do what you want to do within limits of the law.

  4. I mean, if you really want to learn the importance of a college education in case the pros don’t work out look at Andy Katzenmoyer.

    Dude was the shit at Ohio State, issues came up about how if he could major in “football” he would. That’s when all the shit came out about paying athletes at the colleges. Then he got drafted in the first round, he was a highly decorated linebacker coming out of OSU and then what… he disappeared from Pats camp and is now back in college, paying for a bachelor’s degree he could’ve had for free whether he ruined his NFL future or not.

    He’s been what I would call moderately successful it appears, but look at the report about Ryan Leaf, Heath Shuler, etc. Shuler was a wash out at QB, now look at him.

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