Michael Jordan isn’t someone who wants to play the what-if game regarding the NBA Draft.
In his day, the sport’s top players — and that included Jordan — spent three or four years playing college basketball. When more players started entering the NBA straight out of high school or after only playing a single year in college, the six-time champion didn’t consider himself a fan.
Michael Jordan disliked the trend of young players entering the NBA Draft
The vast majority of the top active NBA players, including Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant, attended college for a single season. LeBron James, who is still going strong as he nears age 37, elected to enter the NBA without going to college.
Jordan, the third overall pick in 1984, disapproved of the trend when he spoke with Cigar Aficionado in 2005. The Chicago Bulls legend made it clear he believed all potential NBA Draft prospects should have been at least 20 years old. He played his first NBA game at 21 years old and turned 22 midway through his rookie season.
Jordan also made it clear that he would not have left the University of North Carolina as a one-and-done player “no matter how good I was.”
“I don’t know if I would have been ready for what I had to deal with in the professional ranks. But you’ve got more and more young guys doing it. I am a firm believer that something is affected by leaving college early or not going to college at all.”Michael Jordan
Cigar Aficionado published those comments in its July/August 2005 issue. Luckily for Jordan, seven of the first ten selections in the 2005 NBA Draft were at least 20 years old when they played their first career game.
The NBA last made significant draft eligibility changes in 2006
Jordan strongly believed the NBA Draft should only include older and more seasoned players. Instead, the event has gone in another direction entirely.
The 2005 NBA Draft marked the final time players could enter the league straight out of high school. As of July 2021, Amir Johnson, the 56th overall pick in 2005, is technically the last high school player drafted. Johnson spent 14 seasons in the NBA from 2005-19 and recently played in the G League.
As a result of the draft changes, more players have taken advantage of the one-and-done or pursued overseas opportunities for a year. Durant spent a season at the University of Texas before the Seattle SuperSonics selected him second overall in 2007. His future teammate, Kyrie Irving, did the same thing at Duke and went first overall in 2011.
Each of the first seven players selected in the 2020 NBA Draft were either one-and-done prospects or prospects who spent their first year after high school playing professionally overseas. That group included LaMelo Ball, the reigning Rookie of the Year who spent the 2019-20 season playing in Australia.
What team does Ball play for, you ask? That’d be the Charlotte Hornets, the franchise Jordan bought in 2010 and still owns.
Will the NBA ever let high school players enter the draft again?
Unfortunately for Jordan, he’ll have to keep waiting for the NBA Draft to listen to his advice.
ESPN reported in 2019 that the NBA and the players’ association had been working on ending the one-and-done era. At the time, the two sides hoped graduating high school seniors would be able to enter the 2022 NBA Draft.
As of publication, there had been no further updates on any changes coming in 2022. If the league did announce eligibility changes ahead of next year’s draft, they’d likely need to do so before the end of the calendar year.
For now, it at least appears Jordan is willing to deal with the trends. The Hornets drafted Ball and Duke big man Vernon Carey, a one-and-done player, in the 2020 draft. Anyone still willing to insist that Jordan is stubborn should chew on that fact.