What is the Meaning of 'One and Done' in College Basketball?

SAN ANTONIO - APRIL 07: Derrick Rose #23 of the Memphis Tigers walks off the court after losing to the Kansas Jayhawks 75-68 in overtime during the 2008 NCAA Men's National Championship game at the Alamodome on April 7, 2008 in San Antonio, Texas.
Jed Jacobsohn / Getty Images

For basketball fans, few things are more controversial than the so-called "one and done" rule allowing young players to enter the NBA draft after just one year of college play. Some hoops fans say the rule allows truly talented young players like Carmelo Anthony to play at the level they deserve. Others contend that it robs young players of a chance to develop and strips the NCAA and its playoffs of its best talent.

The Meaning of 'One and Done'

The NBA has always attracted "one and done" players, often after incredibly successful freshman seasons make them attractive to pro teams and recruiters. Carmelo Anthony, for example, helped lead Syracuse to the 2003 NCAA title as a freshman but decided not to return to school and was selected third overall by the Denver Nuggets in the 2003 NBA Draft.

Until 2005, players were not required to play outside the NBA before turning professional. NBA stars Moses Malone, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James all entered the draft right after graduating high school. But not all young players who made the leap to the pros found success. Kwame Brown and Sebastian Telfair struggled mightily after jumping to the NBA from high school, and some, like New York high schooler Lenny Cooke, never made it after renouncing collegiate eligibility.

To address this, the NBA and the NBA Players Association approved a new collective bargaining agreement in 2005 that contained a requirement that players entering the draft either be 19 years old or have completed their freshman year of college.

As a result, players who would have jumped directly to the pros out of high school were forced to spend a year in college before entering the draft, even if they had no intention of graduating.

Pros and Cons

At the time that the 2005 agreement was signed, the NBA argued that the age requirement would be good for college basketball as a sport and for its players.

For a few years, it seemed to be working, giving fans the chance to see players like Derrick Rose and Greg Oden compete at the college level. But it soon became apparent that for top-tier college freshmen, once they had met the NBA requirements there was no incentive to remain in the NCAA. 

Critics argued that these "one and done" players did more than turn the notion of being a student-athlete on its head. Recruiters now had the added challenge of identifying talented players who wouldn't bolt to the pros after one year. Coaches, whose tenure depends on maintaining a successful program year after year, couldn't rely on players to grow, lead, and mentor younger teammates. And, some fans complained, the NCAA tournament featured fewer of the big-name college stars and surprise standouts.

In the past few years, a number of major sports news outlets and analysts have called for the NBA to revise their rule to address the "one and done" issue. NBA Commissioner Kevin Silver has expressed interest, but as of March 2018 has not committed the league revising the rule.