NBA Over NCAA, Anyday

Original: May 12, 2011 Issue 14

By: Matt Fleming

Staff Writer


Writer Matt Fleming makes his case for the superior level of competition

March to May is the best time of year for basketball fans. First, there’s NCAA’s March Madness, where the 68 teams best in college basketball battle it out in a sudden-death tournament. In sports, there is a hangover once a season is complete (for many fans hangovers have multiple definitions).

In basketball, there is no hangover. The NBA playoffs start in a few weeks. Surprisingly, many fans have chosen one or the other.

First is the fan that follows NBA, but not college basketball. I am of this type. I watch college basketball because I love the sport and I like to see the soon-to-be NBA rookies, but I do not follow a particular program. The best players turn professional within a year or two, so there is not much time to follow players.

Conversely, the transition is slower in the NBA. There are eras: The Jordan era, the Kobe era, the Bad Boy Pistons, the Big Three. There is consistency in the pros. It is similar to the difference between meeting someone at a party and thinking they were interesting versus having a life-long friend.

The other type of fan, that I do not understand, thinks basketball peaks in college. He makes claims that college kids try harder; that they somehow care more. There is excitement in a knockout tournament that is lost in a best-of-7 game series. The playoff format also reduces the potential for an upset, as it is easier to beat a better team one time, rather than four times. I would disagree.

First, I do not know if college kids try harder or not, but many fans watch sports for more than just the player’s efforts. The talent level between college and professional is not even comparable.

Each year, only 60 players are drafted to the NBA and most will never be more than bench players. The knockout tournament does produce upsets like VCU vs. Butler, two underdog teams competing in a war of attrition to see who could lose first. The NBA finals last year came down to the last 3 minutes and were thrilling, except for Boston Celtics fans.

NBA players get in trouble sometimes, but that is the exception, not the rule. Trouble runs rampant through all sports. Barry Bonds, Tiger Woods, and Plaxico Burress are three notable examples. How often are there scandals in the NCAA regarding recruiting violations? Often enough that NBA players can’t be singled out as the troublemakers.

When the NBA playoffs start, 16 teams will be trying as hard as humanly possible to get to the final four. I bet Kobe Bryant would chew his way out of a double-team to get his sixth ring.

Speaking of Kobe, what does he have in common with LeBron, and Dwight Howard, three of the best players in the world? None of them played in college.