Single page view By Jason Whitlock
Special to Page 2

One of the skills you refine while in college is the ability to think critically, the capacity to analyze information and reach a logical conclusion.

Apparently one of the skills you sacrifice when a pro sports franchise hands you millions of dollars straight out of high school is the ability to think critically, the capacity to comprehend any situation beyond how it affects you.

Jermaine O'Neal
Jermaine O'Neal doesn't realize that playing in college actually serves the players well.

I reached these conclusions after learning that Indiana Pacers forward Jermaine O'Neal indicated he thinks commissioner David Stern's bid to institute an NBA draft age limit (20) is driven by racism.

O'Neal is the stereotypical NBA Million Dollar Baby. His youth, lack of formal education and bank account all stand in the way of his grasping the bigger picture. The NBA is headed toward making a good business decision in its next collective bargaining agreement – the players' union is likely to agree with Stern – but O'Neal can't see beyond his own interest.

He jumped from high school to a cushy, million-dollar seat at the end of the Portland Trail Blazers' bench. He can't understand why the league would want to deny another teenager that same rite of passage. And what about LeBron James? He leaped straight from high school to MVP candidate.

In O'Neal's mind, the influx of teenage hoopsters has been very, very good for the NBA. The only people who have a problem with it are the very same people who can't understand why O'Neal, Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson sucker punched and coldcocked rowdy Detroit Pistons fans.

It's racism.

No, it's not. It's business. Despite James' success, and the fact that seven strait-outta-hi-skool players earned spots in the NBA All-Star Game, the influx of unprepared teenage ballers has been bad for the NBA. The growth value of NBA franchises is not keeping pace with NFL and MLB franchises. The league isn't as important as it once was, and Stern is trying to head off a tidal wave of negative publicity directed at the league.

Scoop Jackson thinks Jermaine O'Neal has every right to question the motives behind an NBA age limit. Cast your vote on the issue.
Fans don't enjoy the game the way they used to, and they're becoming more and more hostile toward the players. O'Neal has a $100-million contract. In his mind he's a huge star. He has no clue how much more of a star he would be had he spent two or three years in college being hyped up by Dick Vitale, Billy Packer, Jay Bilas, Digger Phelps and Clark Kellogg. O'Neal spent his college years sitting on the Portland bench, collecting a fat check. That was good for Jermaine O'Neal. It was not good for the NBA.

David Stern's job is to do what's good for the league. He can't react when the league bottoms out. He'd lose his job. Stern must improve the NBA now and get on top of any image problems that might damage the future financial health of the league.

Not only are players more fundamentally sound after spending a few years in college, they are far more marketable after going through the NCAA hype machine.


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