NBA proposes lowering draft age to 18 amid Zion Williamson injury backlash

The NBA formally submitted a proposal to allow 18-year-olds to enter the draft, according to a report on Thursday, one day after Duke basketball star Zion Williamson suffered a knee injury that reignited the debate about the league’s controversial “one-and-done” rule.

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The proposal aims to lower the draft eligibility age to 18 from 19. The National Basketball Players Association is currently reviewing the proposal, a source with knowledge of the situation told FOX Business. Any change to the rule would have to be approved by both sides under the league’s collective bargaining agreement, the most recent version of which runs through the 2023-24 season.

The NBPA declined to comment. An NBA representative could not immediately be reached for comment.

USA Today was first to report on the proposed change.

Williamson, an 18-year-old freshman at Duke who is widely expected to be the first player selected in the 2019 NBA draft, sprained his knee on Wednesday night when his Nike sneaker exploded less than one minute into a rivalry game against North Carolina. The injury, which forced Williamson out of the game, led many current and former players to criticize the NBA’s “one-and-done” rule and urge the Duke star to protect his earning potential by skipping the rest of the season.

While the NBA submitted its proposal just one day after Williamson’s injury, discussions between league officials and the players union were underway well before the incident took place, the source said.

The NBA is said to be eyeing a 2022 start date for any change to draft eligibility rules in order to give all parties adequate time to adjust, USA Today reported. ESPN reported late last year that player agents have resisted efforts by NBA officials to require draft prospects to disclose medical information and participate in certain draft combine programs.

Some of the NBA’s biggest stars in recent years, including Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, jumped directly from high school to the pros. However, the NBA implemented an age barrier in mid-2005, effectively mandating more time for young prospects to physically mature before attempting to turn pro.

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Under the current rule, players have to be at least 19 years old and one year removed from their high school graduation.