I know all you hoops fans are geeking out about the impending finals and while I hate to be the one to tell you that the NBA sucks, I’m a-fixin’ to do it anyway. Someone has to. It’s for your own damn good.
About 6 months ago a couple buddies of mine tried to get me involved in their fantasy basketball league. For the record, I’ve never participated in any kind of fantasy sports of league of any kind mainly because A. I hate losing money and B. I’ve made the decision that I have too much reality going on in my life to spend time and energy on something that has “fantasy” right there in the title. This is another way of saying it took me all of about 3 nano-seconds to respond to my buddies fantasy NBA request:
“Nope. Can’t do it. I hate the NBA.”
That’s right. At the risk of having my man card permanently revoked, I said those very word out loud: I. Hate. The NBA.
I’m sure my friends just chalked it up to catching me on a bad day or my well-known tendencies to be insubordinate and churlish. In most cases, they’d probably be right. But in this case, they’re wrong.
I really do hate the NBA. Here’s why.
- The game is just too damn easy.
It’s been argued that of all the professional sports, NBA players are the most all around athletic group of the lot. And I get that argument. Really I do. In fact, I don’t debate it.
Compare the average NBA player to an MLB catcher or a lineman from the NFL and it’s generally not even a close contest.
But do you know how tall the average NBA player is?
He’s almost 6 feet 7 inches tall. And that means half the active players in the league are actually TALLER than 6’7”.
Do you know how high the rim is in NBA basketball?
Using a very average arm length of 26 inches from shoulder to wrist, when a guy who is 6 feet 7 inches tall extends his arms above his head he effectively becomes 8 feet 9 inches tall, give or take.
Without even the tiniest of jumps, the average NBA player is only 15 inches away from the rim.
Next time you play pick up hoops on an adjustable rim with your buddies, drop it down so it’s only 15 inches above your extended arms and watch how much easier the game becomes.
I can’t say for sure if you’ll be doing windmill dunks but I bet a 20 ft jumper or a breakaway layup starts to look an awful lot easier than it did when the rim was at 10 ft.
And this doesn’t even factor in the amazing leaping ability of many NBA players. (*The AVERAGE NBA vertical is 28 inches, with many players clocking in significantly higher.)
Imagine Tiger Woods playing a round with you at your local municipal golf course.
You think he’d score pretty well?
Damn right he would. Because his skill as an athlete and golfer far, FAR, exceeds the demands of that course.
The very same thing is true of every NBA basketball game.
- It’s a “Score at Will” Sport
I know all you hoops fans are getting ready to jump down my throat about how tough it is to break down an NBA defense that’s anchored by a guy who’s 7’2 and 300 lbs clogging up the middle, but if it’s so tough, why do NBA teams routinely score 100 points every time they take the floor?
To put it another way, let’s say you’re watching another sport like NFL Football. Or Major League Baseball. Soccer. Hockey. Whatever. Take your pick.
And let’s say you get up to go to the bathroom or get a beer. (Or both, if you’re me.)
What’s the first thing you ask your buddy when you get back to your seat?
“What did I miss?”
And why do you ask that?
Because in EVERY other sport, scoring points is an absolute premium.
In football, teams generally have to engineer a drive of some kind and string together a bunch of successful plays in order to score.
Minus the instantaneous nature of a home run, baseball often requires a sequence of hits and/or walks in order to get a run across the plate.
In basketball, when you come back from the bathroom and ask that question, the answer will be: “You missed as many points as each team could score in the time you were gone.”
Probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 or 12 (5–6 baskets per team) depending on whether you had to go #1 or #2.
- The Majority of the Floor is Uncontested
Think about what happens after an NBA team makes a basket. (At least 99% of the time, that is.)
The team that was just scored on is now on offense and they take the ball out from underneath their own basket.
The team that just scored is now on defense so they turn their backs to the offense, and run back to defend their half of the court closest to their hoop.
Which is to say, the main area of defensive effort in the NBA focuses on the space between the 3 point line and the basket itself. Or roughly 30% of the entire floor.
In what other sport does this happen where a team willingly concedes a majority of the playing surface?
Do hockey players retreat to the blue line and wait for the offense to skate into their zone before putting a body on them?
Do football teams line up at their own 30 yard line and yell down to the opposition, “You guys go ahead and run the ball down here and THEN we’ll line up our defense!”
No. Of course not.
And despite its waning popularity, baseball in particular, is a game that’s all about micro-spacing adjustments based on the situation at hand: double-play depth, no doubles defense, etc. etc.
Because most sports are all about the value of the territory you’re trying to defend.
But oh no, not NBA basketball.
When team has the ball, roughly 70% of the floor essentially has no value to anyone.
If it did, certainly there would be more effort put into defending it.
(Disclaimer: I’ll grant you that High School and College Hoops (neither of which I love but both of which I enjoy more than the NBA) may be a little different on this point in that you’re much more likely to see a regular full court press employed at this level than you are in the pros but if that’s a point you want to argue, you’re just being difficult. And really, that’s MY job.)
- The NBA is A League That Favors Superstar Ball Hogs
When you think about it, of all the so-called “team sports” out there, the NBA is really the least team oriented sport there is.
When was the last time an NBA team that didn’t have at least one (and usually two) high-scoring superstars won a championship?
This is why the NBA places such a high value on “scorers”. Those players who have the strength, athletic ability, and touch to put up 30, 40, 50 points a night almost every night.
And in order to put up those numbers, these scorers are going to have to take a large majority of the team’s shots every single time down the floor, maybe to the tune of 25–40 shots per night, while the rest of the team may only get a chance to shoot the ball 3 or 4 times per game and only when they’re completely wide open or the shot clock is running down.
When you think scorers, think Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, and LeBron James.
In fairness to all the above, Jordan and LeBron were both insightful enough to realize that for all the defensive attention they were going to draw, there HAD to be someone else on their team who was getting an open look at the basket, and for the most part, both of these guys became effective ball distributors when called upon to do so.
Kobe Bryant, at least a majority of the time, hasn’t been this kind of player.
Maybe the worst of all offenders.
Sure, an NFL team may have a game where one guy scores 3 touchdowns. Or a baseball team may have a hot hitter who seems like he carries the team offensively for 8 or 10 games in a row.
It’s very rare that an NFL team can be truly successful with an offense that’s focused on only one guy.
And a hot hitter in baseball doesn’t get to bat any more often than the rest of the team does.
That’s because the NFL and MLB, unlike the NBA, are true team sports.
- Free Throws Decide Games
So of all the things I hate about NBA hoops, here’s the part that frosts my shorts most of all.
A huge percentage of NBA games (at least close ones) are ultimately decided by foul shots, better known as free throws.
Why do they call them free throws?
Because that’s exactly what they are.
A man with unparalleled strength, speed, and athletic ability, having been fouled (or in some cases, very lightly grazed) by his opponent, gets to stand on a painted stripe about 15 feet from the hoop and take either one or two completely uncontested shots.
(The average NBA player hits between 70 and 80 percent of these shots. My son is 13. He can probably make 6 out of 10 of these on a fairly regular basis.)
What the hell kind of sense does this make??
How about we do this: the next time a baseball game gets into the 9th inning with a 2 run differential or less, let’s let two hitters from each team take 5 at bats off a tee. The team who hits the most home runs wins.
Or, the next time an NFL games gets down to the final 2 minutes, let’s just let each offense run 5 plays of their choice with NOT A SINGLE DEFENDER ON THE FIELD.
Sounds frightfully boring, right?
Now imagine that in many cases this whole free throw thing is actually part of the team STRATEGY to win a game!
Happens every night in the NBA.
One team is down so they have to stop the clock.
The only way to do that (other than time outs, of which there are way too damn many) is to foul the opposing team and force them to hit free throws.
I’ll grant you that in the NFL, the team who is winning toward the end of the game often times has the option to kneel on the ball and run out the clock. But at least they can’t start this flavor of nonsense until the other team is out of time outs and they can only do it until they run out of downs. Unlike an NBA game which often seems like a quarter and a half of clock killing and free throws.
In baseball (the BEST of all sports) there is no such thing as free throw strategy or running out the clock. If you want to win the game, you gotta get 27 outs. No matter what the score is, the pitcher has to stand there on the mound and give every single man his chance to beat him until the final out is recorded.
Now THAT’S a sport.
No need to thank me for freeing you from the shackles of professional basketball.
I think of it is a public service.
And whatever you do, don’t get me started on televised golf.
NO ONE wants that. Believe me.