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Pacers Center: NBA Age Limit Racist

April 12, 2005

TORONTO (AP) _ Indiana center Jermaine O’Neal said the NBA’s desire to put an age limit in the next collective bargaining agreement could be driven by racism.

``In the last two or three years, the rookie of the year has a been a high school player. There were seven high school players in the All-Star game, so why we even talking an age limit?″ said O’Neal, who was drafted out of high school in 1996 by the Portland Trail Blazers.

``As a black guy, you kind of think that’s the reason why it’s coming up. You don’t hear about it in baseball or hockey. To say you have to be 20, 21 to get in the league, it’s unconstitutional. If I can go to the U.S. army and fight the war at 18, why can’t you play basketball for 48 minutes?″

The NBA’s seven-year labor agreement expires after the season and NBA commissioner David Stern has asked for a 20-year-old age limit in the next deal, with incentives provided to players who defer their draft eligibility to stay in college. The union originally opposed raising the current age limit of 18, but has begun to waver.

Cleveland’s LeBron James won the rookie of the year award last season, and Phoenix’s Amare Stoudemire took home the honor for the 2002-03 season. Both were drafted out of high school.

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