Kareem Abdul-Jabbar speaks to Omaha B’nai B’rith  
Abdul-Jabbar says NBA entry age should be 21

By ERIC OLSON, AP Sports Writer

OMAHA, Neb. (AP)—Kareem Abdul-Jabbar says the NBA should raise its minimum age for entry into the league to 21.

The NBA’s career scoring leader and center on the Los Angeles Lakers’ 1980s “Showtime” teams said Wednesday there’s a disturbing sense of entitlement among many of today’s young pros.

“They get precocious kids from high school who think they’re rock stars— ‘Where’s my $30 million?’ ” said Abdul-Jabbar, who was in Omaha to speak at the B’nai B’rith sports banquet. “The attitudes have changed, and the game has suffered because of that, and it has certainly hurt the college game.”

Together with Magic Johnson, the 63-year-old Abdul-Jabbar led the Lakers to five NBA titles in the 1980s. Before Abdul-Jabbar retired in 1989, he set the NBA record for career points (38,387), MVP selections (six) and All-Star selections (19).

He now is a special assistant to the Lakers and a best-selling author.

“Coach John Wooden encouraged me to be more than just a jock,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “He said if I let my intellectual life suffer because I was so into being an athlete that I would be less than I could be. I would tell all students to pursue your dreams but don’t let your education suffer.”

The NBA in 2005 changed its entry age to 19. Players who previously might have jumped from high school to the NBA now end up playing one year of college ball before declaring for the draft.

  Those players are still too young, Abdul-Jabbar said, and many deprive themselves of the emotional and physical maturity necessary to meet on- and off-the-court challenges.

“When I played, the players had to go to college and earn their way onto the court, meaning that there were upperclassmen ahead of them,” he said. “Players who had to go through that and had to go to class, when they got to be professional athletes, they were a lot better qualified.”

Abdul-Jabbar said if college weren’t the right place for a player, the player should, as an alternative, be required to play in a minor league or developmental league.

Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James became stars right out of high school. The day after James all but disappeared in Cleveland’s playoff loss to Boston, Abdul-Jabbar said even “King James” would have benefited from college.

“He would have come into the professional ranks very polished, given his innate gifts,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “Having to go through a college system would have made him a total gem as soon as he stepped out of the college ranks.”

Abdul-Jabbar said his greatest athletic achievement was playing on the Lakers team that beat Boston for the NBA title in 1985.

“But seeing my kids graduate from college and knowing they have a firm basis in life, that is a lot more important to me, personally,” he said.
He said the “Showtime” Lakers would fare well in the current NBA.

“We had guys on the bench who were Hall-of-Famers,” he said. “That doesn’t happen now because there is such a dispersal of talent. We would do very well in this present climate.”