Sports Law Blog
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Tuesday, July 11, 2006
O.J. Mayo and Billy Walker to Challenge NBA Age Restriction?
ESPN's Chad Ford has an excellent and extensive piece on two amateur players who may put the new NBA age restriction to the test next year: O.J. Mayo (right) and Billy Walker (left), the top two high school seniors in the country. Both players are one year older than a traditional high school senior and, for different reasons, if they decide to drop out of high school and not graduate, they could argue that they "would have graduated" this year. If successful in that argument, they would then be eligible for next year's NBA Draft, since according to the new CBA between the NBA and NBPA, an American amateur player must be at least 19 years-old on December 31 of the year of the NBA Draft (both Mayo and Walker would be in 2007) and that at least one NBA season must have passed from when he graduated from high school, or when his graduating class graduated from high school, and the NBA Draft. If eligible, both would likely be lottery picks, with Mayo possibly going second overall, right after Greg Oden.
Walker has the stronger case for arguing that he "would have graduated in 2006" because the Ohio High School Athletic Association just announced that he should have been a senior this past year. Why? Because a transcript error that resulted from transfering between different schools caused his credits to be counted incorrectly. So according to the Ohio High School Athletic Association (which obviously has no stake in whether Walker can turn pro), Walker has completed four years of high school and four years of high school basketball.
Mayo's claim is based on the fact that he was held back a year early in his schooling, and would have graduated in 2006 but for that, and that he has played high school ball since he was in the 7th grade.
Ford interviews Tim Frank of the NBA and me for the story. Perhaps not surprisingly, we don't agree on whether the players (and especially Walker) should be eligible:
NBA spokesman Tim Frank said that he believes neither player is eligible for the 2007 draft.We then discussed the implications of either Mayo or Walker bringing a lawsuit, and the applicability of Clarett v. NFL in that lawsuit:
"Unlike when Maurice Clarett challenged the NFL's age eligibility rule, Walker's lawsuit would enjoy empirical data showing that prep-to-pro players have, on average, performed better than any other age group to enter the NBA," said McCann.As a separate matter, we also discussed the legal implications of why 19-year old international players are able to more easily enter the NBA Draft than are 19-year old American players. While both groups of players must be at least 19 by December 31 of the year of the draft, the international players do not have a one-year waiting period after high school.
This will be a very interesting to story to watch. Ford's article also states that while both Mayo and Walker presently intend to attend college, they would rather go to the NBA directly if possible. The article addresses other topics as well, and is well worth a read (and I strongly recommend ESPN Insider if you don't yet subscribe, especially since you also get ESPN The Magazine).
On three separate notes: 1) thanks to Michael Ryan of Bearcat News for his excellent insight earlier in the day; 2) thanks to Jeff Clark of the highly-addictive Celtics Blog, who wrote a nice posting about the ESPN article on the equally-highly-addictive True Hoop; and 3) since the ESPN article is bringing us a large number of new visitors today, welcome to our blog!