If we have learned anything about the National Basketball Association besides the fact that the league consists of some of the best athletes in the world, the games are very entertaining and the players are paid extraordinary salaries. However, from a psychological perspective, there are many immature players, teams and even coaches in the NBA.
An immature person is defined as a person who is not fully developed or having the emotional or intellectual development resembling someone younger. Physically, the players in the NBA are fully developed displaying athletic prowess and motor skills that most people never possess. However, mentally some players have a difficult time making major decisions, using filters with media and co-existing with other dominant personalities. One of the theories I have about the increasing immaturity among players in the NBA is the lack of college experience among these same players. Not to say that every NBA player that did not attend or graduate from college is unintelligent but college usually prepares people for mature through experience and responsibility.
The eligibility rule that allowed players to enter the draft early without viable college experience was established initially under the collective bargaining agreement in 2005 and continued under the current collective bargaining agreement in 2011. The eligibility rule clearly states that a player eligible to be drafted must be at least 19 years old and must be one year removed from high school. Therefore, players who did not want to college but wanted to enter the NBA could enroll for one year to apply for the draft thereafter.
Aside from the psychological perspective of this topic, the social economic perspective may have played a major role in the resistance to the eligibility rule. In 2005, many players believed the rule was unfair due to government regulations such as being eligible to be drafted to go to war for the country at the age of 18. Moreover, from an economic perspective some players derive from lower class communities where a standard NBA contract could be a tremendous help to their families. In addition, some players did not possess the academics to enroll in college but where forced to due to the new eligibility rules.
In 1980’s most NBA players went to college and enjoyed college success followed by NBA notoriety however since those times, the NBA has set a precedent for allowing 19 year olds in a league who maybe one year removed from their parent’s home with no responsibilities whosoever. After the contract is signed, everyone with an emotional or business attachment to the player will expect the neophyte to be able to manage a multi-million dollar contract plus endorsements in addition to family obligations, team responsibilities and let’s not forget the people out to take advantage of them.
In my opinion, these are the reasons for notable scandals such as Dwight Howard’s indecisiveness, Lebron James decision about “The Decision” and Gilbert Arenas’ gun incidents. Most of the incidents could be due to lack of judgment, intelligence or parental support but what is clearly obvious in all the incidents is the presence of immaturity.
In 2009, Gilbert Arenas who at the time was with the Washington Wizards violated NBA policy and Washington D.C. law by bringing firearms into an arena. However, after being reprimanded by the NBA, Arenas decided to mock the investigation with a sarcastic pre-game dance with his teammates. As a result, he was suspended for the duration of the season and the once 100 million dollar player was subjected to bouncing from team to team.
Clearly, this incident displayed a lack of intelligence on the part of Arenas. In 2010, Lebron James decided to announce his decision to leave the Cleveland Cavaliers on national television. Most people thought the amount of arrogance he displayed turned him into a villain and ruined his public image; clearly a lack of judgment of his part.
Finally, Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic has become a part of a new trend which players demand to be traded to one particular team basically forcing their reluctant current team to make a deal or lose them to free agency. Howard entered the NBA in 2004 straight from high school but surprisingly he may have become even more immature as he got older. Currently, Dwight is embroiled in the latest NBA drama where he has demanded a trade from his current team months after he said he wanted to stay with the team; clearly a lack of honesty on his part.
In all these instances, the players simply displayed basic human emotions but what is troubling about the current state of the NBA is the consistency of these incidents. Those were only three examples of mental breakdowns with players but I am positive there are the countless others that have not received media attention.
The real question is how can the NBA solve this problem? One solution would be to place more emphasis during rookie symposiums and training camps on the consequences of bad decisions but I am sure the NBA has that in place already with mixed results. Another solution would be for specific veteran players appointed by the players union on every team to mentor the young players. However, often times many organizations hold the young player in high regard while the veteran is expendable therefore if team may be more interested in “spoiling” the young player to preserve the credibility of the franchise. Another solution may be to rely on the families and agents to educate the young player about bad decisions. However in some cases, both families and financial advisors have interior motives which are not in the best interest of the naive player.
In conclusion, the immaturity issue in the NBA is a problem now but it can quickly become an epidemic if the NBA does not take the necessary steps to educate these players and not treat them with “kit gloves.” From a parental perspective, the one of the ways to teach a child about right and wrong is with positive rewards and negative reinforcements, however when a child is never taught about negative consequences, he or she may never grow up.