Duke University star Zion Williamson went down early in a featured match-up against the University of North Carolina Chapel-Hill this season and people, including yours truly, jumped to the conclusion that he should sit out the remainder of Duke’s regular season, at a minimum. The phenom should have been able to forfeit going to school altogether, but the National Basketball Association currently requires players to be at least one-year removed from high school in order to be eligible to play in the league.
Williamson’s injury reignited a debate as to whether the NBA’s one-and-done rule should be extinguished. Getting rid of the rule has already been suggested by the league, and a proposal has been provided to the National Basketball Players Association for review. It is the union that could potentially hold up a change, as it is a representative unit of current professional players, and some of those players may feel as though their jobs will be threatened by allowing basketball players to turn pro at an earlier age.
People who tend to be most strongly against a change to the one-and-done rule will reference the fact that not all early entrants are LeBron James or Kobe Bryant. They will claim that the NBA and the players’ union has a duty to protect eager players from themselves and cite to specific players who did not achieve the subjective level of success that they believe would warrant a player to push college aside for professional ambitions.
One player who is often used as an exhibit for why the one-and-done rule should remain in place is Korleone Young. Now forty-years old, the Wichita, Kansas native is long gone from the NBA. In fact, the 1998 fortieth overall pick only lasted three games during a lockout-shortened 1999 season. The rest of his career was spent in what is now referred to as the NBA’s G-League and overseas.
Many would seem to believe that Young regrets his decision to skip college and go straight to the NBA. He barely had a cup of coffee in the NBA before being told his services were no longer requested. However, Young is actually one of the biggest supporters of changing the one-and-done rule to once again allow talented players to leave straight from high school for the NBA. You just have to get him to be comfortable enough with you for him to express his sentiment.
The Sports Biz recently was offered the opportunity to chat with Young to learn more about his past and why he believes others should be able to follow in his footsteps, whether they end up playing out long careers in the NBA or become journeymen abroad. He held nothing back when he spoke candidly to me.
“You can shun down the decision, but I will never regret the decision that I came out,” says Young. “They can go point the finger at a few people like me, which I embrace. It’s an honor to be one of the vessels and players to usher in The King [LeBron James] and all the ones after that.”
Young does not consider his life to be anything but a success, despite others constantly labeling him as a failed NBA player. He had a long career overseas, made a lot of money and is now a psychosocial therapist, teaching social skills to children through a non-profit corporation.
“I love American sports. We are the greatest country on this Earth. We must be able to allow all to achieve a common dream and goal. To go out of high school [to the NBA] is like an American dream,” says Young. “What’s negative helping a kid achieve his dream, unless he’s embracing something negative? These kids give up blood, sweat and tears to make it.”
Young believes that Kobe and LeBron are success stories just as he and players like Darius Miles are success stories. Miles earned roughly $62 million playing in the NBA, despite not living up to his expectations in the league. That is a large amount of money for someone who has been labeled a “bust.”
“Darius Miles was a success, and I don’t care what other people say,” says Young. “It’s about a kid living up to his dreams and his own status quo.”
Young also says that it is silly for there to be a restriction on an 18-year-old to play in the NBA while that same adult can engage in a variety of other activities.
“There should be no restrictions on who the NBA deems to be a child, but can buy cigarettes and go to strip clubs,” explains Young. “If an 18 year old isn’t a grown man, then consider him a minor.”
He also believes there is a racial component to the one-and-done rule that needs to be exposed to the masses.
“When a kid has a chance to change his livelihood, he’s going to do it,” says Young. “African American people are the decendents of slaves. College ain’t the place for half our people. No, they’re not financially literate. Their families have never been. Everybody wants to shove something under the rug, speak economics, that they’re not ready. A lot of people come from check-to-check households.”
Ultimately, if there is anyone who went through coming out of high school and into the NBA with regrets, it would probably be Young. However, he is proud of his decision and feels as though the option should be freely granted for future talented prospects to make a decision on their own.