Thursday, June 5, 2008

NBA? Not Basketball Anymore

There’s a rumor going around that the NBA Finals begin tonight. I wouldn’t know because, although I’m one of the most avid and ardent basketball fans you’ll ever meet, I do not follow the action in the NBA. In fact, I don’t consider what’s going on in that league to really be basketball at all.

It’s a fraud. Men’s professional basketball in the United States isn’t basketball so much as it is basketball themed entertainment. It’s the closest “sport” in existence to what goes on in the WWE. From the indoor fireworks, to the motorcycles running up and down along the court to the trumped up noises to unhealthy decibel levels, things in the NBA are geared toward the fan experience first, and the integrity of the game a distant second.

It’s odd that in the game with the fastest pace, the longest periods of prolonged non-stop action in all of professional sports, that the people in charge would feel it necessary to manufacture the enjoyment. And all of the focus on this ridiculousness has taken the spotlight away from the fact that the game itself has become bland.

Defense is only played in the final moments of a game. Team offense is a myth, with one on one and two on two isolation becoming the norm. The game is strategy free. Coaches are babysitters, not tacticians. Players are more concerned with achieving rap star imagery than they are with being able to execute the fundamentals. Showtime is valued over teamwork. Foreign players provide the only semblance of playing together and that is only when they are bunched together on a team.

The game is entirely too long as well. Players pace themselves to shine in the 4th quarter, which is the only time a real basketball game ever threatens to actually break out. If you want to know what is wrong with the NBA, look no further than NCAA basketball. It’s still a game. It’s a competition. They have these amazing rules that are enforced, like no travelling, no charging, no carrying allowed. The coaches do this revolutionary thing called coaching, where they teach their players and show them how to execute. They have this crazy thing called strategy, that the coaches employ against each other.

The game is fast paced, but not obnoxious. A run and gun team like Memphis can get matched against a grind it out half court team like Wisconsin and you get to watch the battle for tempo ensue. Two twenty minute halves mark the perfect amount of time for a game, allowing the players to expend maximum effort throughout, instead of pacing themselves until the very end of a game with four, fifteen minute quarters.

Everything about college basketball is right when compared to the nightmare that is the NBA. For years, it’s almost seemed like the NBA playoffs have been scripted, only to find out that some of the referees were accepting gambler money throw games. NBA “basketball” is integrity free.

So yes, I’ve heard the rumors. Historic franchises from Boston and Los Angeles will meet up in a best of seven series, of which I will not watch a single moment. Magic and Larry: they played when it was still a game, a competition, when they still actually played basketball, instead of used it to entertain a stadium full of people who just need an alternative to the steel cage match once in a while.

NBA? Yeah, it’s definitely Not Basketball Anymore.

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