The NBA season is barely a week old and I'm already sick of it. Sure, like many 'Canes fans I'm looking forward to checking out the progress of Shane Larkin once he's healthy and I've watched John Salmons over his long and solid NBA career. I'm also rooting for former 'Canes like Durand Scott, Kenny Kadji, Julian Gamble, Trey McKinney-Jones, Reggie Johnson, and others, to reach their professional goals. But the reality is that I can't stand the NBA - especially when comparing it side-by-side to college ball. It's like watching "The Shawshank Redemption" (college ball) and then flipping on Shaquille O'Neal's "Steel" (NBA) right after. It's enough to make your eyes bleed.
This post may anger some of you - and while that's not my goal, it's a side-effect that I won't lose a wink of sleep over. You can pepper me with all the amazing things that NBA players can do - and I'll agree. They are utterly amazing at basketball. But the product sucks. Stephen Speilberg and George Lucas are two of the most creative individuals ever, yet they still conspired to make Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
1. The NBA attracts bandwagon fans like moths to a blindingly-hot flame. Sure, when teams aren't doing well attendance takes a dip in both pro and amateur sports, but there's something so transient about NBA fans in many cities.
2. Most NBA arenas pump artificial noise to prevent the crowd from seeming like extras from an episode of The Walking Dead. By extras I mean zombies.
3. Seizing on the point above, NBA games actually pump in sound effects and music while the action is going on. It's a cartoon sideshow. When I'm at a ‘Canes hoops game, I like hearing the squeak of the sneakers on the court, the thud of bodies as they battle with reckless abandon under the glass, and antics of the students who bring more passion and energy to college arenas than can be believed.
4. College players actually try to defend their opponents throughout the year - not just in the first week and during the playoffs.
5. While basketball in general is an elegant sport, the NBA and NCAA iterations seem to be different sports entirely. One highlights individual players and treats them differently based on their value to the league; one is more focused on teamwork and cohesion. Guess which one is which. (Note: Duke and their oft-spitting and cursing coach are outliers in this comparison)
6. The NBA is similar to the WWF. There are ‘good guys' and ‘bad guys'. There are ridiculous nicknames that stick with players even when those nicknames no longer describe their deteriorating skills. The referee scandals of the past weren't even surprising.
7. True, there are probably a lot of shenanigans involved in college recruiting. But the NBA draft, as headed by Vince McMahon - I mean David Stern - is a probability-defeating joke without an obvious punch-line.
8. "We". I don't know about you, but it frustrates the crap out of me when I hear professional sports fans use the term "We" when discussing the teams they follow. I've been a Yankees fan all my life - starting in the 80s when the team was garbage most of the time. I watched Andy Hawkins pitch a no-hitter - and lose. I've never used "We" even when they were winning championships one after another. If you are not working for the team, related to one of the players, or are a player yourself, you have no business using the term "We" in any form. Even worse, when the team doesn't do well, the fan often switches to "They" or "The <explicative> <team name>". What an absolute joke!
9. Since the above really bothers me, I'm going to provide another example. When you say "We are going to win!" meaning you, LeBron James and the rest of the Heat, it is no different than watching Thor: The Dark World and saying "We are going to save Asgard!"
10. Unlike most NBA franchises, colleges and their athletic programs have often been around for many decades. For reference, The University of Miami has been around since 1925 - the Miami Heat since 1988. Collages are integral parts of the community and there is a much greater connection to the city, region, and the inhabitants therein. The NBA's community involvement, just like most of the corporate crowd that fills the expensive seats, is manufactured junk. When you say "We" involving the University of Miami, University of Alabama, or Podunk College, Anytown, it's not such a big stretch as universities are interwoven into the fabric of a region, city, or town. You can look less like a buffoon by using "We" when you're rooting for your favorite University.
I could have come up with many more - really - but I think you get the point. I have a deal for you 'NBA fan who professes to love basketball and not just the feeling of rooting for a winner' - come and check out the 'Canes hoops team this season. Think about it, in the NCAA, players go full-blast all season long. If you don't hustle, you don't play. There is no sulking and coach-blaming. No post-game interviews that remind you of a spoiled 5-year old throwing a tantrum. Just the future stars of tomorrow working their tails off for a microscopic chance of playing at the next level.
Just tune out the middle stretch of the NBA season (the garbage block that begins in a couple of days and ends just before the playoffs start in April) and pick it back up for the playoff run, when the college hoops season is already completed.