Sunday, February 15, 2009

NCAA basketball good, NBA bad.

I love college basketball. It is the perfect sport to ease the transition out of the college/pro football season into the dismal nothingness that is baseball season (at least to me).

NBA basketball, on the other hand, just doesn't seem to do it for me. Whereas the game is being played by the most skilled players in the world, it seems like it's become an offensive showboating contest complete with absolutely horrendous officiating. The team-oriented offenses that was pivotal to the recent success of the Spurs, the Suns (of a few years ago) and the Pistons is giving ground to the Allstar-centric offenses where Kobe or LeBron can put up 60 points on any given night. NBA basketball becomes less about the success of the team, and more about the success of the individual player. As a result, the foundations of the game are eroded and pared down into the offensive smorgasbord that is on TNT every night.

Why does this happen? Same reason steroids has been allowed in baseball for so many years: $$$.

The NBA has found it more profitable to market the individual player over the team, as individual players sell more jerseys, attract more viewers and fuel the "look what LeBron did tonight" Sportscenter highlights. Younger players see this every night, and vie to hone their game like Kobe's. As a result, these youngsters try to make mold their game so they can be the next LeBron instead of the next Tim Duncan or Steve Nash. The NBA, of course, welcomes this. The kids end up skipping college for the big bucks, don't learn how to play defense or how to pass the ball, and the trend deviates further and further from what makes this game great.

Yes, you need stars to win; you can't win with a team simply full of solid contributors. But I think the NBA has taken it too far. The Bulls won all their championships because they had Michael Jordan. But they also won because they had Dennis Rodman, Scottie Pippen, Steve Kerr and a host of others, all with Phil Jackson and his innovative and complex triangle offense. These days, it seems like all you need is Michael Jordan.

Of course, this doesn't universally apply to every team in the NBA, and all the players in it. There is still great basketball being played in the professional ranks by great teams of players. But I, for one, have stopped watching NBA basketball almost entirely.

All I can say is thank God for NCAA hoops, where basketball is still being played like it's meant to be played.

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