Stickdog posted this on our board in response to some comments about early entry. As is often the case, a reader put things better than we could hope to, so we pass it on to you here.
College basketball fans enjoy watching college basketball. Having better players in college basketball often makes the game a little more fun to watch. Some college basketball fans also like to watch NBA basketball. NBA basketball is more enjoyable when the average player has at least a few developed skills.
Tennis and golf are individual sports. Baseball and hockey have affiliated minor league system. Basketball and football are unique in that they are team sports with no true affiliated minor league feeder systems--at least not currently. Basically, if you are drafted and/or signed by a NBA or NFL team, you either make the roster or are cut. You aren't sent to the minors for seasoning.
Basketball and football scholarships have traditionally offered a large group of underprivileged kids a chance for higher education. You may not care about this opportunity. You may not care about whether or not the role models and heroes of inner city children know how to read or write. But most leaders of inner city communities care about these things.
Do I agree that student athletes should be students? Of course. Do I agree that the NBA developmental league could fill a legitimate role in helping to train basketball players who aren't interested in education? Of course. But as the system is currently set up, the trend toward drafting younger and younger players diminishes the quality of play in both college basketball and the NBA, negatively impacts the prospects of all but the 20 or so underclassmen who end up with guaranteed contracts (and perhaps many of the lucky 20 are also hurt financially as well as personally by going too young), and further de-emphasizes education among our nation's urban poor.
So this trend hurts college basketball fans, NBA fans, the vast majority of potential professional basketball players and the vast majority of youngsters who idolize professional players. With the possible exception of a handful of teenage millionaires, the only folks who are well served by the current state of affairs are the agents, street agents and "guardians" who are able to cash in sooner on the commodification of a [highly] exploitable teenager's athletic potential.