By Drew Gallagher
February 23, 2019
Drew Gallagher is a first-year undergraduate student at Bowling Green State University. He is planning to major in Sport Management with a minor in General Business. Drew is a proud native of Aurora, Illinois and is interested in many sports, but focuses primarily on baseball and football at the professional and collegiate levels.
On Wednesday, February 20th, the greatest rivalry in college basketball resumed and there was a lot of promotion put into the game. Less than a half-minute into it though, all that excitement was changed to dread for most Duke and NBA fans. As you probably already know, Duke star Zion Williamson suffered a knee injury that could have very well ended his season and maybe even his seemingly locked position as the number one overall pick in the upcoming draft. Being that Williamson is arguably the most hyped basketball prospect since LeBron James, you can imagine the thoughts going through everyone from basketball fans to NBA executives’ heads after it happened. Luckily for Zion, the injury is now “being labeled as a mild knee sprain” (Walton, 2019, para 3).
If you’re like me – constantly watching sports talk shows and reading sports articles – you noticed a common theme the day after the injury. Analysts seemed to flip-flop between the implications of the injury for Duke and a potential rule change by the NBA. This would include the eligible age to declare for the NBA draft changing back to 18. This would eliminate the “one-and-done” rule given that prospects could declare directly out of high school. The rationale of most analysts was mainly about a player possibly losing out on money if they sustain a career ending/hurting injury in college when it could have been avoided by being in the NBA already.
This talk was of course to be expected after a player of Zion’s ability had a possible career ending injury. It felt like the national media was just waiting for something like this to happen so that they could criticize the NBA for making players go to school for just one year. I find it interesting that they would wait like that because if it was truly as urgent as they all claimed it to be on Thursday, then it would’ve been just as urgent before the injury ever occurred. And yet, talk about a possible rule change only happened occasionally before. Granted, one may argue that since Williamson is as good as he is, the injury finally woke these people up and cemented the idea in their minds.
The media’s continual coverage helped lead the NBA to propose lowering the eligible draft age only a day later. This would be the first step towards changing the rule back to what it once was in the early 2000s. According to Goldberg, “the timing is reportedly coincidental” coming the day after the injury (Goldberg, para 3). I do find it very hard to believe that the injury just happened to occur the day before they planned to report this. The NBA would need to most likely wait to change this rule for good until the new CBA is agreed upon sometime within the next five years.
I do find it very interesting that this sort of talk has been reserved to the basketball ranks and has yet to make it into college football yet. This is surprising when you think about the risk of injury being much more prevalent in the sport of football than basketball. I did hear the occasional discussion about it when Nick Bosa decided to sit out for the rest of his season at Ohio State after an injury, but this talk was nothing compared to the media storm caused by Williamson’s injury.
It was apparent to any sports fan this week that Williamson’s injury caused a huge stir within the sporting community. We will see if the national media keeps arguing for the case of a rule change in the coming months leading up to the draft. My guess is that this talk will not cool down much until then.
Goldberg, R. (2019, February 21). NBA proposes lowering eligible draft age to 18 after Zion Williamson knee injury. Bleacher Report. Retrieved from https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2821830-nba-proposes-lowering-eligible-draft-age-to-18-after-zion-williamson-knee-injury
Walton, M. (2019, February 21). Zion Williamson injury updated to Grade 1 right knee sprain. NBC Sports Chicago. Retrieved from https://www.nbcsports.com/chicago/bulls/zion-williamson-injury-updated-grade-1-right-knee-sprain