So, I’m sitting in my common room watching Sacramento play Portland and enjoying Chris Dudley’s first appearance on national television when my roommate (we’ll call him Billie) offers his two cents on the game and professional basketball in general.
“The NBA is mad boring, corrupted by money and arrogant pricks. The only people who play are rich bastards and stupid. It’s the National Business Association. That’s what you can use for your headline — National Business Association.”
Billie is convinced that his Connecticut Huskies are more exciting to watch than any team in the NBA, and that their center Emeka Okafor offers more entertainment value than the likes of Shaq and Co. because the African import is leading the Big East in blocks.
Please, Billie. Go home so I’ll have a single — and take college basketball with you. There is no brighter stage on which basketball is played than on the hardwood of NBA arenas, and Emeka Okafor would get sent back across the Atlantic before he ever managed to reject even a Muggsy Bogues shot. Sorry to rain on your party, but the NBA is where it’s at, and I’ll tell you why.
Because there are only 29 — not 2,900 — teams to follow and rosters to get familiar with. Dick Vitale might know everyone’s name and more, but no one else does and I don’t really want to be like Dick Vitale in the first place.
Because every one of those 29 teams can beat any other. We may have a good team this year, but you and I both know that if we ever had to face a nationally ranked team the game would be over before it started. In the NBA, the two-time defending champs in Los Angeles have lost to each division’s worst team in the last month alone.
Because in college, Utah has the Utes and not the Jazz. ‘Nuff said.
Because the NBA playoffs are more intense than the NCAA tournament. Billie (and many, many others) will beat me when he reads this, but it’s true. College players spend four years — and often not even that these days — trying to reach their basketball goals, so when they win, they’re real happy, and when they lose, they’re real sad. But you don’t recall a college player lying on his back, arms clutching the ball while the rest of his body shivers with the euphoria of an eighth seed upset or crumbling to the floor with tears of joy after winning the title, do you?
And finally, because more than anything, the NBA has real, bona fide superstars. Duke’s Jason Williams may already be better than the Grizzlies’ Jason Williams, but I’m not talking about the Jason Williamses of the NBA here.
I’m talking about Larry Legend, Magic, Sir Charles, Stockton-to-Malone, The Answer, Kobe and Shaq, and, of course, Mike. These players have personality, they have charisma, and, above all, they have stories to tell. Every season, more drama is unfurled, whether it is last year’s hobbled Sixers team willing its way to the Finals, the Bulls’ troubled dynasty, or even Magic’s battle with HIV. What does college ball have to offer that compares to the drama of the NBA?
Overexcited commentators? Again, I don’t really want to be like Dick Vitale.
A team as dominant as Duke? The Blue Devils’ 20-point average margin of victory doesn’t exactly make things too exciting.
March Madness upsets? Thrilling, but short-lived.
Please, Billie. College players deal with basketball and college. The pros deal with basketball and life. College players get report cards; pros get paychecks. I’ll concede that yes, those paychecks are too big, but that doesn’t make the NBA stand for something other than the greatest game on Earth; the “B” will always stand for basketball, and the best of it.