Draft Rule: NBA Age Limit

High schoolers need not apply

Tara Moore/Stone/Getty Images

Though the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association reached a new collective bargaining agreement in 2016 -- expected to be in effect until 2023 -- the age-limit issue continues to be a sticky one. According to the NBA, the issue of the minimum age for a player to enter the NBA remains, essentially, unresolved -- and the terms of the previous CBA, reached in 2005, will remain in place. The NBA says it will continue to discuss the issue with the players union to try to reach a compromise before the next collective bargaining agreement is reached.

One and Done

As it stands, a player must be a minimum of 19 years old to enter the NBA. The rule is known as "one and done." As the NBA notes:

"The current 'one and done' rule allowing college players to declare for the NBA draft once they’ve completed a year of college or have been out of high school for a year, will remain in place."

In other words, high school students need not apply.

The league actually sought to increase the minimum age limit to 20. The league says it is concerned about the growing high-school recruitment industry that has sprung up to find and recruit high schoolers. 

"A huge reason the NBA fought for the age minimum in 2005 collective bargaining negotiations was to deflate the league’s booming high school/AAU scouting regime," says SBNation. "Scouting is resource-intensive. Time, money, staff, attention -- scouting 17- and 18-year-olds spread all over the country costs a lot, and it’s far more difficult than scouting 18- and 19-year-olds playing against other 18- and 19-year-olds."

Union's Counterproposal

The players union, by contrast, "would prefer no limit or a rule similar to that of Major League Baseball," says the NBA. The union sought a so-called "zero and two" compromise patterned after Major League Baseball's amateur draft. High schoolers can enter MLB's draft, but if they enter college, they become ineligible until after their junior year.

The NBA did not agree, and the age-limit issue remains unresolved: The "one-and-done" rule continues, with its minimum age of 19 for players to enter the league.

Continued Debate

Though the age limit debate continues, changes to the rule do not seem likely. When Adam Silver took over for David Stern as NBA commissioner in 2014, he addressed the situation:

"It is my belief that if players have an opportunity to mature as players and as people, for a longer amount of time before they come into the league, it will lead to a better league," Silver said. "And I know from a competitive standpoint that's something as I travel the league I increasingly hear from our coaches, especially, who feel that many of even the top players in the league could use more time to develop even as leaders as part of college programs."