Nerlens Noel's season-ending torn ACL injury is sure to ignite the debate on the NBA's minimum age requirement, which typically forces high school superstars to play at least one year as an amateur at the collegiate level. Noel was a certain NBA lottery pick last year as a high schooler, and was likely the overall No. 1 pick in this June.
This prompted immediate questions about whether there was an insurance policy covering Noel, who was set to make millions in the NBA, and would have already had a nice NBA contract if not for the age rule. Thankfully, Kentucky coach John Calipari confirmed that Noel was indeed covered:
The good news is he is insured, so he would have been fine even if the injury would have been worse.— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) February 13, 2013
Insurance for amateur athletes has become somewhat routine, with Willis McGahee's knee injury in the Fiesta Bowl making it a public issue over the past decade. McGahee, who was a first round pick, set up a $2.5 million policy before sustaining the the injury in what was his final college game.
The insurance is certainly a fallback, but won't appease critics of the NBA's rule that forces stars to play a year without NBA compensation. SB Nation's Tom Ziller wrote about the rule, and why the union needs to address the contrivance:
Why is the age minimum a players' issue? Because free agency means more than being able to pick your team. It means having the agency to freely make choices about how to build a career. The age minimum wiped a popular path off the table for no good reason.
And it's not all about injuries: it's about forcing players to delay their earning career -- which hurts their families in many cases -- and it forces them into the shady underworld of high-stakes college athletics.
As Calipari later tweeted, ACL injuries are not the career-enders they once were and the insurance is nice to have in case an injury does permanently alter his athletic or earnings ability. But with no NBA contract in hand, Noel will now likely have to spend the rest of the year rehabbing before he sees a court again, no matter what level it's at.