Sixteen years ago, LeBron James jumped to the NBA straight out of high school, forever altering the sport. On the eve of the 2019 NBA draft, Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love, a former teammate of James, said today’s players should be allowed to make that same leap—and he expects the NBA will soon let them.
“That's a choice that players should have,” says Love. “I think it's going to be within the next three to five years.
“When you have that opportunity...to achieve your dream and start making money for not only yourself, but to be able to take care of your family and start building your business, I think it can be really powerful,” Love adds.
In 2005, a collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and its players union included a rule requiring draft eligible players to be at least 19 years old and one year removed from high school. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said last month that the league will likely do away with the rule by 2022.
“Adam Silver and the league are going to do the right thing,” Love says.
Proponents of the restriction, including NBA owners, bristled at the difficulty of evaluating high school players and the risk of investing millions in them. But critics said the rule unfairly limits the employment opportunities of working-age adults ready to contribute to NBA teams.
Last year an NCAA Commission on College Basketball, led by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, recommended the league do away with the rule. Love joins a host of NBA players who have advocated for eliminating the restriction, among them the Golden State Warriors’ Kevin Durant as well as the Philadelphia 76ers’ J.J. Redick and Ben Simmons.
Love made the comments to Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer in a conversation that aired on Yahoo Finance in an episode of “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.
An 11-year NBA veteran, Love has played in five all-star games and three NBA Finals. He won a championship alongside James in 2016. Off the court, Love has fought for mental health awareness, revealing his own struggle with anxiety and launching a foundation to tackle the issue.
‘It's tough for me to say that I wouldn't have gone to college’
When Love graduated from high school, in 2007, the NBA’s restriction prevented him from entering the draft. He spent a year playing at UCLA, which he doesn’t regret, he said.
“I got to make lifelong friendships and at least have a small impact in that year at UCLA,” he says. “So, you know, it's tough for me to say that I wouldn't have gone to college.”
Likewise Zion Williamson, who is widely expected to be the first selection in Thursday’s draft, spent a year playing for Duke University.
“I look at a guy like Zion Williamson, and he got to be mentored and coached by Coach Krzyzewski,” Love says. “That is a beautiful thing.”
Andy Serwer is editor-in-chief of Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter: @serwer.