Point/counterpoint: NBA blows away college hoops
Want a tip on how to have a fun, easy-to-win debate? The formula is simple really. Just find somebody who is blindly passionate about something that they can’t possibly back up with any logical reasoning, proceed to write them into a corner and then wait for them to come crawling back to you as they kiss your ring and call you “Godfather.”
On an unrelated note, my friend and colleague Joe Edmunds was just telling our editor and I two weeks ago about how vastly superior college basketball is to the NBA.
I’ll try to go easy on you Joe, even though it’s not usually in the character of the Bleacher Creature to ease up when he smells blood. And hey, no matter what I say, you will probably have some supporters that just won’t be able to pry themselves away from the bricktastic version of the game that you love so much. After all, Oklahoma is in the midwest…or the south…or the southwest…wherever. Point is, it’s not on the coasts where the NBA is king, so there are bound to be a ton of NCAA truthers out here.
But even if you, dear reader, are one of those diehards, listen to what I have to say now. I’m not going to attempt to disparage the century-old traditions of college hoops, or dismiss the fun of rooting for your alma mater or god forbid try to tell you that March Madness isn’t the most goddamn exciting spectacle in American sports. I’m just going to be addressing the specific point that Joe saw fit to throw out there: that the NBA is a worse form of basketball.
There are a number of ways I could go about responding to this, but I think I’ll begin with the words of our president, who perhaps said it better than I ever could: “Wroooong.” Thank you Donald, that will be all. The NBA is not possibly better basketball, it’s not probably better basketball, it’s demonstrably better basketball. It is, you know, the single most competitive professional basketball league on the planet, gathering together all the best players from around the globe to form an elite club of 450 superhumanly athletic individuals who could all stroll onto a college court this very minute and school everybody.
We’re not just talking about them being slightly better either. NBA players would dominate to the extent that you would actually become embarrassed for the losing side. Think Leonidas over the Persians, the brown eye gene over the blue eye one, Bruno Mars and Beyonce over Coldplay.
How do I know this? It’s simple really. Pretty much every Division 1 college basketball player, at least the competitive ones who actually get playing time, wants to play in the NBA. Becoming a professional athlete is the end goal for every aspiring athlete, down to that little nerdy kid shooting around after school at the bottom of his driveway.
College ball is just that, ball that you play while you’re in college. It’s amateur hour, nothing more at the end of the day than a lucrative, incredibly time-consuming, borderline extortionary club. Nobody who is that good at the game and has worked hard enough to reach that level willingly says, “You know what? I think I’ll stop here, this is as good as it gets.” Of course, very few college athletes go on to play in the pros because the NBA is really freaking difficult!
Every year only 50-60 players from the roughly 1,500-strong college ranks are drafted to the Association, and of that pool only around two-thirds actually make rosters. As for which guys go on to have successful careers? The number is a small handful from every draft class, each of which, remember, was comprised of the very best college players from the year before. Plenty of NCAA stars never make it big because the NBA really is that difficult.
“Okay, fine,” you begrudgingly concede. “The NBA has the most talented players. But it’s about what those players do on the court! They actually play defense and fundamentals in college, the pro game is just so lazy and focused on one-on-ones.” Donald? “Wroooong.” There are more points scored in the NBA, but this is driven by better offenses, not worse defenses. Not that the defensive level is the same, of course, it’s actually much worse…at the college level.
Every pro team runs a complex series of sets more advanced than 90 percent of what you will see in the NCAA because inverted pick-and-rolls, elevator door screens and motion offenses are all necessary to puncture the massively strong, coordinated and intelligent defenses of the NBA. Need proof? Look at how much difficulty a stud like Anthony Davis, possibly the best defensive college player of the century, had adjusting to the physicality and quickness of the pro game.
Defenses only seem better in the NCAA because they are able to contain the predominant offensive strategy of whipping the ball around the perimeter, aborting feeble attempts at the pick-and-roll and attempting a contested three pointer after 20 seconds. If college offenses had the same level of shooting ability, court vision and ball-handling as the pros, teams would be averaging 120 points.
As for players not “trying as hard” once they reach the NBA? Utter nonsense. The NBA is cutthroat capitalism at its finest: produce or die. Its average career length is under five years. Rookies who want to blow off practice in their new cars won’t see playing time, veterans who let their age show will be replaced by the rookies. The only guys who can afford to not give a crap are the truly elite talent, and with few exceptions, those guys all got to where they are precisely because they always give a crap. Enough with this fake news!
Well, I’ve about said my piece. I hope I’ve managed to convince some of you of the NBA’s technical superiority, but for those that I haven’t, that’s okay. Billions of people are wrong about things every day, it’s not that unusual. As for you, Joe, I’ll get my ring polish ready.