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Refuting NBA Criticism in a Town With No Team
By Mike Jasko

Make no bones about it, when it comes to basketball, college basketball reigns supreme in Cincinnati. You're probably thinking, “Of Course it does.” Cincinnati's proximity to Ohio State and Kentucky, combined and two major college teams and no NBA team in the city will obviously yield a lot of college basketball fans. In Cincinnati however, it goes deeper than that. The NBA was what made me fall in love with sports as a child, so I have always been a staunch defender of the league. When I talk to people about the NBA in Cincinnati, there is level of disdain for it that I simply cannot comprehend. Even more puzzling to me, the biggest detractors I talk to are people who claim to “love” basketball, and had played basketball throughout their youth. With many of these people, it becomes quite clear that they actually haven't watched an NBA game in quite sometime, and they use outdated criticisms that don't come close to accurately describing today’s NBA. I will refute a few here:

“The style of play in the NBA is boring, nothing but 1-on-1's and Isolation. They just give the ball to their best perimeter player on the wing every time”

This is perhaps the most common criticisms of the NBA. Anyone who watches the NBA with any regularity knows that it is a ridiculous assertion. That is a rather simplistic analysis of the NBA game as strategy can be just as intricate as the college game. Many NBA coaches get their starts as video technicians for teams, absorbing thousands of hours of game footage before they are ever even offered a spot on the bench as an assistant. Yes, there is a lot of play out on the wings, because at the the moment there is a plethora of talent at that position, more so than ever before. Most of the great wing players in today's NBA are big enough to play in the post, but are so skilled at ball handling and shooting that they don't have to. Last month's Heat-Pacer's game is a perfect example of how while wing play is Lebron Jamesimportant to the NBA it certainly is not the be-all-end-all of NBA strategy. Lebron, the most able wing player in the history of the game, had a stellar performance, scored 38, but the Pacer's dominated in the post and that's why they won.

Also, the old adage about the NBA being five simultaneous games of one-on-one is flat out inaccurate. Now, it is important for me to acknowledge that the NBA has come a long way in that regard and this once was an accurate criticism. Ten years ago, the NBA was the worst it had ever been, (except perhaps in the late 70's and early 80's when most the league was coked up), and boy, was it bad. That was then, though, and now its better than ever. I also contend, that while certainly the stars of the NBA are a driving force of its success, part of the reason I love the NBA is that role players are just as important to an NBA championship team as their stars. Michael Jordan never had to play in a game seven of the NBA finals, but that wouldn't be true if it weren't for two little (well, much taller than me) white guys named John Paxon and Steve Kerr. The Heat do not win the title last year if it wasn't for Ray Allen hitting one of the most remarkable, instinctive shots in the modern era. A shot, I contend, that only a professional would have made. Robert Horry is another great example. No one is going to make the argument that Horry was a better player or bigger star than MJ, but he has more rings. Every NBA championship team in history has relied on an Horry-Kerr type role player to win their title.

“The Atmosphere is better in College Basketball”

Here I will concede, college basketball has an atmosphere that no professional sport (In America at least) can compare to. However, I watch basketball games almost entirely to see basketball Players play great basketball, not to watch fans cheer for players with considerably less talent than those that populate the NBA. This is not to say that college basketball cannot be or is not often entertaining. I did not write this to deride college basketball, but to defend the NBA. I also contend that NBA arenas, in cities with dedicated fan bases, create an atmosphere that is comparable to college basketball. Among these cities are Indianapolis, Salt Lake City, and San Antonio. In these cities, and many other NBA cities, fans cheer for their team with nearly as much vigor as college fans do. One of my friends called this claim, “absurd” but like many others who dislike the NBA had not been to a recent pro game. In the last few years, I have attended a Kentucky game at Rupp and a Pacer's game at Banker's Life Fieldhouse. In both cases, they were regular season games, and in both cases, I was not a particular passionate fan of any of the teams involved. The Pacer's have a group of drummers playing throughout the game, the pregame pyrotechnics were amazing, and the crowd was passionate. I was very impressed with the atmosphere of that game, and as an unbiased observer, found the atmosphere to be pretty comparable to what I experienced at Rupp. All of this considered, I am not here to say that all fans must like the NBA more than college basketball, or that college basketball shouldn't be watched. I am simply asking those that have a bias against the NBA to actually watch it. The playoffs are almost here, so watch some of those games. If you still come away thinking that the NBA is no good, then I would say you probably like atmosphere or cheering on “your team” more than you do basketball. Those that truly love and appreciate the game of basketball are selling themselves short by ignoring the NBA, especially now. The NBA is currently loaded with incredibly talented players. The last five seasons, combined with the next ten will be heralded as one of the greatest eras in NBA, scratch that, basketball history. Don't miss it.

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