More Soccer vs. Basketball

The English team I follow is Arsenal.  I looked up five of our talented players on Wikipedia, and here is a list of their ages upon making their professional debuts:

-Jack Wilshere – age 16

-Theo Walcott – age 16

-Robin Van Perse – age 17

-Thomas Vermaelan – age 18

-Thomas Rosicky – age 18

I bring this issue up because I came across this piece by Steve Kerr advocating a 20-year-old age minimum for the NBA.  In the article offers several justifications for raising the minimum age, but ultimately ends his piece with this:

The National Basketball Association is a multi-billion-dollar industry that depends on ticket sales, sponsorships, corporate dollars, and media contracts to operate successfully. If the league believes one rule tweak — whatever it is — would improve its product and make it more efficient, then it should be allowed to make that business decision. If an 18-year-old basketball whiz wants to earn a living right away, he could play overseas or in the D-League for those two years. Regardless, it shouldn’t be the NBA’s responsibility to provide working opportunities for teenagers, just like it’s not the NFL’s responsibility to do so. The NBA should only care about running its operation the best it can. That’s it.

Kerr is absolutely right that the NBA is a business, but Kerr is oblivious to the fact that the NBA isn’t just in the basketball business or the American sports business.  The NBA is also in the worldwide sports business.  And the market for athletic talent is increasingly global.  The question today might be whether that 18 year-old basketball whiz goes to college or play overseas or plays in the D-League, but tomorrow the question might be whether that 14 year-old soccer and basketball whiz decides to even play basketball.  After all, why wouldn’t he choose the career that starts paying him 2-3 years earlier?  Considering the average career span of an athlete, those extra years are huge, and you can bet that soccer recruiters from big clubs are going to be telling young athletes all over America about how much more money they can make if they choose soccer over basketball.

It could be that many athletes might benefit personally from delaying their entry into the pros, but from a business standpoint, I don’t think the NBA can afford to do this without its talent moving to where it will be better compensated.





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