In the One and Done Era of College Sports, Choosing the NBA over College is Still a Tough Decision

By: Devin Fussa

Joel Berry III recently gifted University of North Carolina fans with a great surprise. Days ago, he had declared for the National Basketball Association (NBA) draft, a decision many expected the junior guard to make. Only recently did Berry declare his intention to return to Carolina for his senior year. This is, of course, exciting for fans and is an interesting decision for the star player.

His choice to stay at Carolina for another year differentiates from a growing trend in college basketball. Recently, many collegiate athletes have begun forfeiting their collegiate amateur status to declare for professional sports. There are few athletes who do so, but many basketball programs in particular have developed a habit of fostering these “one and done” players. Duke and Kentucky, for example, have become notorious for running such programs. Touted recruits play with a college for a year and, with their often highly perceived potential, leave for the NBA as a premium draft pick.

There are two sides to this trend. Why would an athlete relinquish their college education to pursue an unstable career? Injuries and struggling with playing time run rampant among professional athletes, and many draft picks struggle greatly within their first years in the NBA. Some are cut from their teams, others are demoted to lower leagues, and some must even travel abroad to play.

However, through the risk, “one and done” players also seek to reap great reward. The average college student spends four years receiving an education, leaves with financial issues, and spends many more years building for an ideal future. For those collegiate basketball players with the ability, a massive paycheck and the possibility of a bright future lies just ahead. By declaring for the draft, these athletes have access to more money than most do in an entire lifetime. Last year’s first pick, Ben Simmons, now makes nearly $6 million per year and holds a shoe contract with Nike. Even those selected later in the draft still tend to make millions within the first few years of their career.

The choice to declare for the draft is risky, as it provides little to fall back on, but it can certainly be a fine decision. Announcing one’s intention to join the NBA can nearly secure one’s entire future, so long as financials are managed properly. In addition, every year a player remains in college, his draft stock fluctuates, and the risk of injury increases.

As a whole, it is difficult to say whether or not leaving college early will benefit a player. For every success story, there are plenty of skilled athletes who find themselves short on luck. As the “one and done” players of college basketball continue to exist, they will continue to divide opinion regarding the value of an education in comparison to the value of playing professional sports.