1. The players.
Here’s a guy driving from the three-point line, faking left and spinning right at full speed without losing his dribble, and then switching hands in mid-air while drawing a foul. This same guy can also:
- Do this.
Not everyone in the NBA is LeBron James. But with a few notable and hilarious exceptions, they all have all the skills — dribbling, shooting, dunking, and wearing suits. They’re faster, stronger, and can jump higher than their college counterparts. When every player is a THREAT, games are more unpredictable, and, technically speaking, more awesome. There’s also just more to think and talk about — there’s more to chew over and to sustain interest.
Like…things that are better are, in general, more fun than things that are worse. Why is this an argument?
2. The dunks.
SWEET JESUS MY EYES. Dunks are great. No need to be ashamed that you like dunks.
3. The defense.
College teams play hard. No disrespect. NO DISRESPECT. But the best defense is played in the NBA, especially in the playoffs. (It’s easy to look like you’re playing hard when you have 30 games a year instead of 100-plus, and it’s easier to play defense when you can pack the middle of the court because the 3-point line is so short and fewer players can shoot anyway.)
Let’s put it another way. Picture Adam Morrison trying to score on the Pacers. LOL.
4. The seven-game series.
Heat-Spurs, Lakers-Celtics, Lakers-Pistons, Knicks-Rockets, Bulls-Knicks, Lakers-Kings, Celtics-Heat… The most enduring stories in sports happen when teams go deep.
5. Marv Albert.
Best play-by-play man in any sport? It’s between him, Vin Scully, and Al Michaels, and Marv’s dry sense of humor might give him the win in a tiebreaker.
6. The commercials.
REMEMBER THE ONES WITH THE SLOW-MO AND THE PIANO MUSIC? CHILLS. CHILLS.
7. The shot clock.
In the NBA, you basically get one chance to get yourself a good shot on each possession. In college, you’ll see teams dink around passing the ball around the perimeter for 15 seconds, reset, throw it to the post, and reset again…and then heave a long jumper because most college players aren’t good enough to create their own shot against a defense that’s crammed into the middle of the court by the short 3-point line. The final score of the NCAA championship game two years ago was 53-41. 53-41, Lebowski!
8. There are actually fans at the playoff games.
For all the pride college fans take in the intensity of stadiums like Cameron Indoor, it’s weird that the NCAA postseason takes place largely in front of arenas that are a quarter full (and that quarter is people who bought tickets a year ago and have no connection to the teams). Where would you rather watch the most important games of the year — the place above, or here:
9. The best moments in college are luck, miracles, long shots. The best moments in NBA history are magnificent triumphs of sublime greatness.
The most famous college shot of the last decade didn’t even go in. Here are some more dramatically potent shots that went INTO the basket.
10. The players get paid.
Remember when Adidas started selling T-shirts to commemorate Louisville guard Kevin Ware’s horrifically broken leg — and he was prohibited by rule from getting any of the money?
11. It’s a game for players, not old egomaniacs in suits.
You know what’s awesome? When a guy catches on fire and goes for 50 points in a game. And you know where that never happens? College, because coaches like Mike Krzyzewski always have to let everyone know that they’re the most important person on the court, so even stars have to play “within the offense.” Because why would you put the ball in the hands of your best player on each possession when you could be running a motion set to open up a jump shot for the 6’5” power forward who’ll be working for Allstate next year? Michael Jordan scored 19.6 points a game in his last year in college. Think about that. Michael Jordan should’ve scored a hundred points a game against college competition.
Look, having an offensive system is great. A lot of NBA players named Carmelo Anthony could benefit from playing in one. But sometimes the best offense is “give the ball to ____ and let him go crazy,” and some of the most memorable basketball games in history ever have come about that way. In the NBA.
12. It’s an epic story.
Tim Duncan missing two layups in the last seconds of the Finals; LeBron redeeming himself; Pierce and Garnett; the Pacers missing chances to put away the Heat two years in a row; Kevin Durant, always a bridesmaid; the Batman-like rise of Derrick Rose; Stephen Curry putting a whole building on his weirdly skinny shoulders. These are the stories of the NEXT NBA playoffs. They’re stories that have been burning for years, and will continue to burn…I was going to say “long after we’re all dead,” but that would be both inaccurate and oddly morbid. But this is the point: Each NBA game is the collision of decades of individual and team history. Fans know players for longer, and more closely, in basketball than in any other sport. And when the history and the tension and drama all come to a point in one moment — there’s just nothing else like it. Long live the NBA.