I am a big fan of the sport without a doubt. I can remember the last of the Michael Jordan years with the Chicago Bulls thinking how great the sport was. I was a huge fan of basketball even to the point where I actually was more into it than football (which many will think is ludicrous considering my love of football now). I was a fan of the Bulls, Sacramento Kings (yeah, that was a fun phase), and the Washington Wizards in my days of an NBA fan. Then something happened, high school basketball happened.
I played high school basketball and honestly I enjoyed playing it, but my coach was very disciplinary and I felt like I learned how basketball should be played from him. I learned the fundamentals, how important defense was, and how being flashy was not going to win you games despite how cool it was. It was how basketball should be played. However, he told my team that he used plays that were designed by coaches from Duke and University of North Carolina. As the years went on playing the game I learned something, the NBA is not great. Call me bias all you want, but it is not.
While in my time of playing high school basketball, I became a lot more appreciative of college basketball. I had already loved college basketball and was riding high after the whole George Mason cinderella run to the Final Four, but high school basketball made me love the college level even more. While college is not perfect, it’s the way the sport was meant to be played. The NBA to me is just a show. They seem to care more about being flashy, let offense run everything, never play hard nosed defense or play the fundamentals, and there is absolutely no parity in the league. We all know who makes the NBA Finals every year. It’s too predictable. In college, any team can win on any given night despite who is the most talented. Players try hard to grab a rebound, take a charge, position themselves well to defend, power their way to the basket for a hook shot, and ambitiously try to swipe the ball for a steal, while also passing the ball enough to create a great opportunity to shoot. College basketball is about the fundamentals, the NBA is about the entertainment. If you’re a true basketball fan, college is for you.
That being said, the NBA could be better. The league has the best players in the world and that’s not even debatable. They are the most athletic and the most skillful, so clearly they are the best basketball players in the world. If the NBA wants to be fun to watch, they should go back to the basics: play hard nosed defense, create opportunities by passing the ball more or trying to go down inside, taking a charge, and aggressively go after a ball off the boards, basically needing to play the fundamentals to make the league even better. If you have the best players in the world in your league, take advantage of that by having them play the sport the way it should be played.
I was watching some highlights of the NBA All-Star Game recently and when LeBron James’ team played fundamental basketball to win the game, I saw what could of possibly been the best possible basketball I’ve ever seen. Stephen Curry took the last shot and missed badly, but LeBron’s team played such great defense that they made the shot impossible to make and honestly, Curry’s team had no chance of penetrating that defense or creating an opportunity at scoring. I saw what could be the best for the league if players actually played every aspect of the game. The NBA was great up until the mid-2000s, but in the last decade, they chose to go more of a flashy route. Another prime example of how great the NBA could be was Game Seven of the 2016 NBA Finals where the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by LeBron, won a tight battle against the Golden State Warriors to win the first championship in 52 years. I believe the stakes were so high, that’s why both teams played the best possible basketball they could play. I wasn’t even an NBA fan and I loved that game. LeBron’s block on Andre Iguodola late in the game just went to show how great the NBA could be if the players actually played defense. I firmly believe if the NBA went back to basics, there would be more exciting and close games.
I truly believe the NBA could be great again if playing the sport the way it should be played. These players are the best in the world and if the league wants to make basketball bigger globally, maybe if they went back to the basics to show exciting a close game could be, it would help. But it also would help bring back those fans whom they’ve lost including myself. I truly think the league could be better if they became as fundamentally sound as college ball is.
*Here is an article talking about how the NBA has lost it’s way