College Basketball: Far inferior to the NBA

It always kills me when people say that college basketball is better than the NBA. What gets me is that people can’t just admit they like it because it allows them to harken back to their collegiate days when they weren’t fat or it has more white players or March Madness is like crack for sports gamblers. Those are all dumb reasons, but they’re at least true. Instead, people always make up some dumb excuse that makes them sound like some psedo-basketball purist. They don’t play any defense in the NBA, they say. This statement doesn’t deserve to be dignified with a response. The organization where JJ Redick got 25 points a game in its most competitive conference can’t really claim to have a monopoly on defense. They don’t run a team offense, they say. Yes, God forbid a team has a balanced attack that includes driving and posting up instead of stacking the perimeter because the rules give 3 points for a 19 foot shot that 8th graders can make regularly. But the game is purer, they say. They’re competing for the glory, not for some NBA contract. People who say this deserve to be shot. I defy anyone to have watched a UConn team in the past five years, and tell me that Rudy Gay and Hasheem Thabeet were sacrificing blood, sweat and tears because they so badly wanted a bunch of business majors to have the life-altering experience of getting loaded on Crown Royal and flipping cars in celebration of a national championship.

College basketball games are more dramatic to ignorant fans, but that’s only because the talent level is that much worse. A team isn’t coming back from a 10 point deficit in two minutes because the other team’s point guard could run through a press without using his left hand. Even Shaq and Dwight Howard don’t miss pairs of free throws with the clock winding down, making comebacks rarer still. Players in college dive on the floor and fall over awkwardly taking charges. This is because they are less precise and graceful in their motions, but announcers always try to spin these spaz-like movements into examples of how hard they are working. They make it seem as if Tim Duncan doesn’t want to win because he never trips over his own feet while he executes a basic turnaround jumper and punch the air like he’s having a seizure after he makes the shot.

There’s no excuse to not watch the NBA if you’re a sports fan because it has the best atheletes in the world. Almost all of the NFL’s best athletes, including Randy Moss, T.O., Tony Gonzalez, and Julius Peppers are failed basketball players who admit that they prefer it to football. If you put LeBron at tight end for the Browns he would easily have 20 touchdowns next season. Try to obtain video of All-Star closer Bobby Jenks passing an elementry school’s fitness test. CC Sabathia will master a triple axel on skates before you find it. Don’t even think about mentioning soccer. If Rajon Rondo and Monta Ellis had played soccer all their lives they would be breaking the ankles of some Portugese guys so badly it would be inhumane. In fact, France’s best athlete, Tony Parker would murder any of the national team’s midfielders in a foot race, agility drill, or strength competition. If you really want to get into it, Anderson Varejao is the best flopper in all of Brazil and Sasha Vujajic looks more like a metro douchebag than Christino Ronaldo. Once Shaq chokeslams Brock Lesnar, there will be no arguement left.

The NBA is the highest level of athletic competition in existance. If you want to see less athletic players with fewer skills make more mistakes and only stay with their team for more than one season if they’re not that good, then by all means college basketball is for you.

Published in: on September 9, 2009 at 6:07 pm  Comments (87)  

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  1. I so agree. Another argument that bothers me is that college basketball players are supposed to play harder, which annoys the heck out of me. It is the most bogus statement because the nature of the college basketball prevents maximum energy–so much of it has changed into coaches clamping down on their team and wasting the shot clock. It’s like they feel things spinning out of control if a quick (even if open and good) shot is taken.

    With the exception of some teams like North Carolina, most possessions are spent wasting 20 or more seconds of the shot clock just passing the ball around the perimeter. You can’t defend or play hard just passing the ball around the three point line with no intention of doing anything. That’s about 50 percent of college basketball at least that involves no action, no screens, no players running around screens, no players fighting for position near the basket, nothing. The most energy that comes from say a Duke game is the college kids jumping up and down and chanting while the players go through a run through for 25 seconds.
    NBA basketball is more diverse and much more intense.

    • Makes me think of all those 48-44 Big 10 games. Thrilling.

      • Good point. I bet all those people who say the physical, defense-first era of NBA in the early 2000’s was unwatchable are the same people who say how much they love one of these hard-fought Big 10 games. You know, because these guys “want it more” and are “tougher”.

  2. best article i’ve ever read. don’t forget antonio gates in that NFL discussion

    • Good call, he’d be playing basketball in Israel right now if he hadn’t switched.

  3. Couldn’t have said it better myself. The way I see it (and from my personal experience) those people who prefer college basketball and hate the NBA aren’t big basketball fans anyway. They’re probably more into baseball or football or other sports and care about college basketball only during March Madness because it reminds them of their college days, because it allows them to gamble on the games and possibly make some money, because of the whole school spirit thing, because they like watching drunk college kids (who maybe don’t even care about basketball) jumping up and down during the games as opposed to NBA fans being more laid back (honestly, watch the NBA playoffs and you’ll see NBA fans aren’t second to none, especially in some cities) and stuff like that, not because they really enjoy the game. Example: there’s a guy on a sports forum I post at who hates the NBA and claims to like college basketball (he has Georgetown season tickets) but I never see him talking about college basketball in the NCAA section….NEVER. I mean, if he was passionate about basketball he would post about it. But he spends most of the time posting in the baseball section. So yeah, he probably goes to those games because he attends college there so he wants to have fun with other college kids, not because he likes basketball. And I found out that many of those ones who claim to prefer college hoops over pro hoops aren’t even huge basketball fans. They prefer other sports so their opinion shouldn’t be taken seriously. But it is what it is.

    Sadly, the NBA is probably the most stereotyped sports league ever. As a fan who watches countless games every year and REALLY loves the game, it saddens me.

    • You’re completely right. College football fans are the same way, but at least they admit that they enjoy the tailgate atmosphere instead of trying to argue that the college game is somehow a higher level of competition.

  4. You were spot on until you started talking about soccer.

    • America would clean up in the World Cup if its best athletes grew up playing soccer.

      • Hi,

        Have to agree with Gun.

        Most NBA players top athletes couldn’t even play pro soccer.

        That is mainly due to the fact that soccer requires a total different athletic skillset. In particular:

        – players are required to have far more stamina (greater playing area and 2 X 45+ minutes of continuous playing time) and it does not matter too much if they are not so explosive (soccer players are not ripped body builders, too);

        – players are required to be highly mobile: this automatically exclude any player taller than 6’5”, save for rare exceptions (tall but rail thin players);

        – players with a low center of gravity are highly advantaged: this means long legs are a DISadvantage in soccer.

        Apart from that, you are absolutely right on the NBA/NCAA thing.



        20th Century Motors: Being a freak athlete definetely helps in soccer. The NBA’s forwards and centers couldn’t play soccer, but the small, fast guards could. Imagine a team with 10 Josie Altadors.

      • Wholeheartedly agree. You can’t claim that if our LeBron’s, Kobe’s, and CP3’s were playing soccer their entire lives we wouldn’t have destroyed all of the Americas, and quite a few of the European teams too.

        20th Century Motors: Not many guys would get headers over LeBron.

    • I agree. Also, for some strange reason you spelled “hyopcrisy” incorrectly. I would guess you are British, but you said some very silly things about soccer, so this can’t be right.

  5. Couldn’t say it any better, how can college be better when only the 15-20 BEST players out of the league even have a fair chance of making it in the NBA? I think the crowd factor is huge when you hear statements like that. You turn to a college game and instantly feal the energy and get caught up in the game sometimes because the stadium is filled with kids ROOTING FOR THEIR SCHOOL! Everything seems better and more exciting than it actually is. But that has nothing to do with the quality of play.

    • NBA do playoff arenas get pretty intense though.

  6. You’re absolutely right, my favorite is when people say NBA players never try. Yet when college “studs” like Morrison and Reddick get into the league they can barely get a shot off.

    • Add Hansbrough to that list in a year.

  7. Everybody with a QI above an oyster know that NBA is better than NCAA, there is many good arguments and yours are good too, but you would have to stop there.

    “it has the best athletes in the world” : if I would like to see the best athletes in the world I will be looking for weight-lifter/gymnast or sprinter

    The proof: you could be one of the greatest NBA players and be a so-so athlete (Reggie Miller, Stockton, Nash…) try to tell me the same about weight lifter, or find me a good sprinter who didn’t run fast….

    • NBA players have the total package. It’s speed, strengh, skill, coordination, intelligence.

  8. nba players are the most athletic in the world but give other athletes from other sports some more credit pleease…many nfl players are just as beastly if not more

    • There are at least 20 or 30 NBA players who could train for a couple of months and excel in the NFL. I doubt there’s a single NFL player who could play in the NBA.

  9. I agree with most of this, but I have a couple of things to add/debate:

    1. Another reason why many north americans (i put this as i’m canadian and i know there are people up here who think the same hting) prefer college basketball is that they can’t stand to see black males make money at a game in which they excel at to a greater extent than whites. at least old racist men can fall back on the “white quarterbacks are the best” claim in the nfl.

    2. While i agree that basketball players are some of the most athletic out there, the nba vs nfl argument misses out on a few things. the nature of the nfl combine and with both strength and speed drills forces athletes to become much stronger and (on average), faster than their nba counterparts. the training methodologies for nfl athletes are, from what i’ve read, years ahead of what most nba players are doing. for example, t-mac’s trainer had him doing leg press and other bodybuilder type things. i’m gonna go out on a limb and say that probably well over half of nba players don’t do squats or deadlifts, which is something you can’t say about nfl.

    3. having spent time in europe (england), i would have to say that soccer is the sport with the highest level of skill as there is the greatest worldwide following for the sport and the development of talent is more intensive worldwide than basketball is currently. if all the best athletes in the usa switched to playing soccer, they still wouldn’t have the quality of coaching that players from brazil, spain, france, portugal, or italy would have. this could of course change, but that’s how it is right now.

    also, someone like lebron is a once in a generation type guy from a purely athletic standpoint. you could plug him into almost any sport and he would dominate. in the early 90s, the same argument as made with lebron getting 20 td’s could have been made with bo jackson and another major sport. for another example, check out jonah lomu in rugby from the early-mid 90s, a genetic freak.

    hope i could bring a bit to the discussion, just remember that i agree with the entire nba is better than college argument, just disagree with a couple of bits.

    • I agree with everything you say except for the part about squats and deadlifts. To have the 40+ inch vericals that NBA players have require insane leg strength. The fact that some guys probably have those without lifting just shows what genetic freaks they are.

    • NBA players obviously do squats and deadlifts. Those exercises make you more explosive. NBA players don’t lift to get as bulky as NFL players b/c in general you want leaner muscle in the NBA

    • The one distinction being that no one thought that Bo Jackson could have made it in the NBA. Although I highly doubt that LeBron could make it MLB.

  10. Um…you are mixing your arguments throughout this tirade. Are you saying that the NBA is a better more “watchable” game or are you arguing that it has better conditioned athletes with more skill. They are two entirely different concepts. On one hand is the NBA are better athletes and make less mistakes which is true (and certainly expected given that they are true professionals and not pseudo-professional college athletes). But to say that makes the NBA a more watchable game is not so simple. Just from your argument, that it is harder to have comebacks in the NBA, is an example of why the college game is more fun to watch. More drama. College also has a much better environment to watch whether at the stadium or on TV. There is true excitement. In most NBA stadiums the excitement is generated by employees (think organist or the score board tell you when to cheer). That is the problem with the NBA – its such a placid environment where the extremely boring suits are closest to the action.

    • If you’re more entertained by college sports that’s fine, just don’t try to argue that it’s somehow a more pure sport or a higher level of competition. You can be more entertained by high school field hockey, it’s your opinion.

      • I never argued that the college game was a more pure sport or higher level of competition. If fact you were to infer anything from my statement it is that the NBA is a higher level of competition when I state that it is played by professional athletes.

        My point is that your original thesis you were mixing arguments that do not go together. Whether the NBA plays a better game of has a higher level of competition does no vis-a-vis make it a better product or more dramatic or more entertaining. The game by itself does not determine which is more dramatic. Instead other factors (including) atmosphere help make that determination. And yes if fact i have been to high field hockey that was more dramatic and entertaining that regular season NBA. It is your “ignorance” of the distinction between the game and its relative entertainment value/drama that sinks your thesis.

  11. This article was painfully hilarious. All completely legitimate arguments, turned into a very humorous piece. I am a regular BDL reader…and this is the first time I have laughed out loud while reading a blog post. Congratulations.

    • Glad you enjoyed it and thanks for the compliment.

  12. one problem with professional sports in general is the divas. add in racism, take away the ‘purity’ of ncaa, and you have a thugged-out money-grubbing bunch of crybabies who whine at any call.

    not my opinion but i find it easy to see why people would easily prefer college bball to the nba. not that college players dont complain at every whistle, but at least they aren’t being paid millions (like what do you have to whine about baby? your paycheck is more money than most see in their lifetimes).

    whining about trades gives a bad face to team ball. it’s hard to understand how 5 guys who hate each other in the media can play ‘pure’ team basketball.

    what i mean to say is that it’s easy to give something a bad image when so much money is the reason for playing the game (ie, the thought is that none of these nba players would play the game if not for the millions. so, for ‘purist’ basketball lovers the ncaa is more ‘pure’ basketball, no?)

    it’s easier to love college kids who are playing just because they love to play (as mentioned only 15-20 college players make it to the nba). so for the hundreds of other players the thought is that they play for the love of the game.

    and if you purely love the game, then the ncaa is so obviously more attractive.

    but i love the nba so much more. i prefer professionals. higher level of competition. better athletes. worlds more talent.

    great post. thanks.

    • I guess that’s what a lot of people believe. Still, so many of those guys are going to play pro ball in Europe.

    • Come on man, these guys don’t only play for the money. I know numerous pro ballers and they play and have played the game from young because they love the game and they were lucky enough to have made it into a career. They work hard at what they do all year long. Same thing goes for all of us, if we don’t work hard we will not reap the benefits such as pay increases and promotions.

      For these reasons, this why they have made it to the highest level of ball play. Their determination to be the best have gotten them past college proved that they belong in a superior league with superior athletes and superior ball playing.

      I can say this because I have played D1 college ball and I know that I could never play in the NBA. The guys are to fast, to strong and much smarter on the court.

      • This statement is shockingly logical.

      • agreed. but situations like Lamar Odom this very summer give the perception that they do only care about money (if LO cared only for winning, why would he entertain the notion of leaving even a little bit?). thus, the perception is that he played hard all year because it was a contract year. and if it weren’t for the possibility of earning millions of dollars more for his efforts, his efforts would not have been as strong.

        but obviously he tried hard because he wanted to win, and that makes it exciting to watch.

        i suppose i believe in the free market and that the money available in the nba breeds the high level of competition we see in it.

        i’m not saying players only play for money, just that it’s easy to see it that way.

  13. Try to obtain video of All-Star closer Bobby Jenks passing an elementary school’s fitness test.

    Why bring baseball players into the argument? I think Michael Jordan showed that even the GOAT couldn’t hack it in baseball. Some of us prefer seeing actual skill mixed into our sports.

    If you’re interested in just seeing a fitness competition, go to a ironman triathlon. If you just enjoy seeing chiseled NBA athletes, then bully for you, good sir.

    • Tony Gwynn and Matt Kemp are two more athletes who had to switch to a less challenging sport because they couldn’t make the NBA.

      • yeah, outliers are great. It’s just interesting to me that two of the NBA’s 50 greatest moved (or moved back) to the NBA after not hacking in baseball.

  14. I think ozward brings up a good point about how money might complicate or tarnish the NBA game as opposed to college ball. However, even though 15-20 college players, as he mentions, makes it to the NBA, you can’t honestly believe that everyone isn’t training and playing hard in hopes of someday making the NBA. I doubt there’s a single college player out there who would turn down an offer to play for an NBA team. They try their hardest to make it big, even if some have to take an indirect route(i.e. europe, d-league). So yes, college players aren’t playing for money at the moment, but it would foolish to say that they don’t have that in the back of their minds. It’s not as if Blake Griffin’s work ethic somehow makes him a douchebag because he now makes millions to do it. Is college ball pure? No. Is the NBA? No. Does money corrupt people? Sure. Does this mean I slap halos on every college player? Uh, no.

    • agreed. i feel like the perception is the ncaa is more pure because it’s easy to forget about all the blake griffin’s that won’t be blake griffin. THOSE are the hard-working-just-love-to-play players.

      and the ncaa can be very competetive. it’s cool that there are players that will work all the time to be better and yet are not nba level. the fact they do that for no promised money makes their effort, while probably not athletically and everything else nba-levl, special. i think that’s what makes watching the ncaa interesting (besides the gambling and fun party the tournament brings).

      yes every great player in the nba is at an incredible level unmatched. but everyone in the ncaa could break my ankles and its cool to watch people do things i couldn’t dream of.

      • Not trying to say NCAA players are not athletes. This article was inspired by a large number of sports fans who will watch anything except the NBA, and then try to act like its a lesser form of competition.

  15. Amen. I’ve been saying this for years to anyone who thinks they are on a pedastool because they won’t give into the ‘impurity’ of professional basketball. Most of these people are just fans who weren’t from a city who had an NBA team and convince themselves that inferior basketball is somehow superior.

    Awesome article. I’ve been sending it around, and I will be posting it on my website. Keep up the good work!

    • Good looks, I appreciate it.

  16. You can’t immediately classify a sport as less challenging just because some of its players couldn’t manage the physical rigors and decided to play a different, yet still professional, sport. I go back to the argument that Michael Jordan, arguably the best player in the history of basketball, just couldn’t hack it in the big leagues. Sure, the NBA is full of freakish athletes, but I think the fact that its best player couldn’t play in the bigs makes baseball anything but “less challenging”. I love the NBA just as much as the next guy and am counting the days until my team takes the court, but I am not able to classify the NBA, or any league for that matter, as the most talented and skilled league on the face of the earth. Any professional athlete is a freak in one way or another and has worked incredibly hard to get to where they are. But on the subject of which league is more entertaining, NCAA basketball or the NBA, I think it is a pretty close call and is down to the individual, but there is absolutely no arguing that the players in the NBA are leaps and bounds ahead of student-athletes.

    • Obviously Kobe would probably not be that good at the biathalon or syncronized diving. Still, when you talk about all-around athletes who could pick up any almost sport and dominate, NBA players take the cake.

  17. I laughed at the person who said that soccer was the highest skill sport. It’s not a primarily skill based sport, as you can see by the US at least coming close to keeping up with their more “skilled” counterparts with pure athleticism “brute force” method.

    Sports like tennis and golf have a way higher skill requirement, and its readily obvious that the most skilled players dominate players that are athletically superior, which you can’t say in soccer or nba. (Lebron dominates and yet is nowhere close to be the most skilled player in the NBA)

    That said, the NBA’s level of athleticism is by far the greatest because it is the only sport that combines the skill sets and athletic prowess of most major sports- footwork, hand-eye coordination, reflexes, speed, agility, dexterity, strength, accuracy, stamina, etc- and in packages that are not found nor needed in other sports.

    • Couldn’t have said it better.

    • You might´ve not noted this but he didnt say soccer has the highest skill set but the highest overall skill, because it has the highest number of followers. Its just a fact that in europe, africa, south america, asia much more people play soccer than baskteball because its much more common and has a great history in those countrys (see: England, Argentina, Brazil, Germany etc.) The players from abroad in the NBA are often players who played bball because their bodys, which were primed for this sport (Nowitzki, Yao, Gasol, Nene, Kirilenko, every guy from east europe ever etc.) I can tell you that players above 2 metres (6,6) are highly uncommon in professional soccer because of their immobility.

      The NBA is certainly the greatest concentration of athlectic talent in the world, i´ll give you this. And players like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant would surely be pretty good soccer players if they played it since their childhood. But you cant tell me that any guy over 2,10 could play any sport except bball and maybe football. If every kid in argentina and brazil started practicing bball now, they would be pretty good pretty soon. And their national teams are pretty good already.

      You can surely say that if soccer became the number one sport in America, they would kick some ass. But it also works exactly the other way, too. If europe and south america made bball their no.1 sport, they would be pretty awesome as well. Just watch out when the 200 million chinese people who are playing bball get better coaching and organisation systems.

      If you might wonder why im writing all this, its simply because the ignorance of the poster annoyed me that much. The NBA is definetly better than the NCAA. But telling me that most players play baseball, football, soccer because they failed to become basketballplayer is simply ignorant. Maybe they played the other sport because they loved the game (see baseball). Maybe they played it because they are good at it (see tiger woods). and yeah, maybe they play it because they couldn´t become nba players. and the funny thing is, many people in the soccer countries think that basketball is a sport of crybabies (see ginobili, parker) who dont have the nuts to play a “man”-sport like soccer. Maybe their fast, maybe they can jump high, but they cant shoot a ball with 80 mph and wouldnt survive a hard tackle.

      And if you say that parker can beat any french midfielder, you apparently have never heard of Franch Ribery.

  18. love it all i could do was laugh and agree.

  19. Hi there –

    As a fan of both college and the NBA (although with more of a college bent, for sure), I can understand the vitriol for most college basketball fans that claim “college basketball is more pure, etc., etc.”. These claims are bogus and maddening.

    However, I don’t agree with the sanctimonious tone of this post. It is possible to justify a preference for college basketball to the NBA without making false statements about the quality of play.

    I’d like to offer up a three reasons as to why some fans might prefer college basketball to the NBA.

    1) The players are college students. I was a college student once. I remember what it was like. I’d like to think that, somewhere along the line, the college basketball players on the floor have had similar experiences to me (going to class, jumping off a roof into a pool a la Hansbrough). I may be wrong about their experience, but college basketball’s appeal is embedded in this connection.

    What I do have trouble relating to is someone who is a professional basketball player. I will never ever be that (try as I might!). I don’t really know what they do all day when they’re not practicing.

    2) There are college basketball teams where there aren’t NBA teams. I grew up in a small city in southern Virginia. There are no NBA teams close by (with the Bullets/Wizards being the closest). My father had tickets to the local team and from there my fandom developed. In those early years, you form experiences that last the rest of your life. If you live closer to a big-ish city, I can understand why you might prefer the NBA, but for small town folk, college ball can be a fun watch.

    3) The structure of college basketball is such that high variance strategies can be used and tested by teams. Case in point: The princeton offense. I’m not saying that strategic innovation only flows from college basketball to the NBA as a result, but a good deal of it does because college teams can afford to spend the time working out the kinks of a new offensive or defensive scheme. In the NBA, the opportunity costs of taking the time to innovate are so high that I think it’s much more difficult, though certainly not impossible.

    So, my point is: why do you feel the need to put the college hoops (and other sports) down to make yourself feel better about the NBA? Listen, it’s all basketball and it’s all fun to watch (Ok, maybe not Penn State – Illinois). Both March Madness and the NBA Playoffs are a delight to behold. Why can’t we enjoy them as they are?

    • I think you took the post a little too seriously. I watch a lot of college hoops. The disses of college sports were there to make a point in an entertaining way.

      • Fair enough. No harm done then, eh?

  20. […] Finally, a link: Why the NBA is the greatest […]

  21. Amen. and Amen.

    When a college player pumps his fist it is called showing emotion.

    When an NBA player does it he is show boating. Riiiight.

    • Such a double standard.

  22. I went to Santa Clara for undergrad and could not find one NBA fan. I went to Gonzaga for law school a few years back and again I could not find one NBA fan. Needless to say, I LOVED this article.

    • Your friends didn’t know what they were missing.

  23. […]  Welp, I supposed I’m convinced: “The NBA is the highest level of athletic competition in existence. If you want to see less athletic players with fewer skills make more mistakes and only stay with their team for more than one season if they’re not that good, then by all means college basketball is for you.” (via TrueHoop) […]

  24. People that are arguing that if certain NBA players have or were to at this moment switch to a new sport and not dominate that sport are not understanding the argument as stated. When saying that America would dominate soccer if all of it’s NBA stars had grown up playing soccer instead of basketball is NOT the same as saying America would dominate in soccer if NBA stars switched to soccer right now. Same thing with baseball and every other sport. Sure, Michael Jordan couldn’t make it to the big leagues… HE HADN’T PLAYED BASEBALL IN 15 YEARS!

    The fact is that if there were no NBA a lot of guys who are in the NBA now would be dominating in other sports that they had grown up playing. If there were no baseball or soccer… uhh well I guess there might be like one or two different guys sitting at the end of a few NBA teams? Probably not though.

  25. Let me speak up as a college basketball fan with a growing appreciation for the NBA. There’s no doubt that the level of play in the NBA is vastly superior to that of NCAA men’s basketball. Offensive and defensive execution, size and speed of the players, coaching… it’s all on a different level. Anyone who doesn’t see this is either rather closed-minded or doesn’t really understand basketball.

    But still, the NBA can be pretty vile…

    1. The Seattle/Oklahoma City thing was a mess. It’s hard to love a league that would let that happen the way it did.
    2. Donaghy and the “nothing to see here” league response. Still feels slimy.
    3. The constant whining to the referees, even from the “good guys” (looking at you, Tim Duncan).
    4. The flopping (although Tyler Hansbrough did carry this particular disease during his college years)
    5. The “race” for high lottery picks at the end of the season.
    6. Trades and contracts that are both short-sighted and condescending towards fans.

    I could go on. NCAA basketball has plenty of flaws and hypocrisies, I agree. But so does the NBA. I guess it’s just a matter of whose flaws a person can live with.

    To address the relative difficulty of major sports, I agree that basketball has better athletes than both soccer and football. But I agree with this old ESPN article (, boxing is harder than all three. Still not sure about the ice hockey thing, though :-).

    • You’ll never hear me say a bad thing about boxing, but I just prefer the teamwork aspect of basketball.

  26. I’m a huge basketball fan that loves both the NBA (my childhood in Chicago coincided with Michael Jordan’s rise and the Bulls dynasty) and college (attended Illinois) versions. I agree with you that the NBA has pound-for-pound the best athletes in the world and the level of skill required to play pro basketball is arguably tougher compared to any other sport. At the same time, the NBA Playoffs might be the most underrated sporting event out there – when the best players are playing at the top level of focus and intensity, it’s a sight to behold. I also agree that a lot of the reasons that people give in terms of why they follow the college game and/or don’t like the pro game are either naive (anyone that knows about college recruiting knows that it’s far from “pure”) or ignorant (that just because a less-skilled player “looks” like he’s trying really hard doesn’t really mean that he’s actually working harder than a pro player that happens to have a ton more skill and athleticism).

    That being said, there are simply different reasons for why I also enjoy watching college basketball and it’s along the lines of Morph’s argument above about “watchability”. Chuck Klosterman wrote a great column on a couple of years ago comparing the NBA and college basketball and pointed out what makes the college game compelling: context. That is, even though it’s clear that NBA players have far superior skill and athletic ability compared to college players (if not compared to players in any other sport), each individual NBA regular season game doesn’t really have that much meaning in the context of the entire season. As a result, the intensity of the fans (if not the players) are ratcheted down for most of the regular season. (The NBA Playoffs are a completely different story.)

    In contrast, a December regular season college basketball game can have major implications in terms of whether a team can get into the NCAA Tournament or, even if it involves teams that assured of getting into the Tourney, where they are going to get seeded (which has a major correlation with to how far they’ll end up advancing). Rivalry games such as Duke-UNC take that even a step further. So, every single regular season college basketball game from the get-go is contextually important (and not just from a numerical “every game counts in the standings” view). That’s part of the entertainment value of college basketball from day-one.

    Context is everything in sports (and entertainment in general). That’s why Michigan-Ohio State or Texas-Oklahoma in college football draw more interest than a random Bengals-Raiders game even though the NFL players are clearly superior to college players. That’s why the Little League World Series draws more interest than a random Royals-Orioles game even the MLB players are clearly superior to little kids. The most compelling sporting events are always the ones where we’re watching athletes, regardless of skill levels, responding to high pressure situations. College basketball presents those high pressure situations almost immediately from the very first game of the year, while the NBA simply doesn’t have that due to the sheer length of the regular season. I’ll emphasize again that the NBA Playoffs are a completely different ballgame – sometimes, I feel like I’m watching two different leagues when I compare the NBA regular season to the playoffs.

    Again, I’m a huge fan of both the Bulls and Illini – being a fan of the college game doesn’t necessitate not liking the pro game and vice versa.

  27. This article is the same rehash of different arguments we’ve seen 100 times before. A real enjoyer of sports enjoys it all different levels. What is most enjoyable to watch is in the eye of the beholder. Just because I like professional basketball it doesn’t bother me one whit if some people enjoy watching college basketball more.

  28. kid like you know my feelings on the matter, so im gonna say the article sucks.

    GO UCONN!!!!

    • Hopefully Kemba won’t crap the bed in the tourney this year.

  29. “Almost all of the NFL’s best athletes, including Randy Moss, T.O., Tony Gonzalez, and Julius Peppers are failed basketball players who admit that they prefer it to football.”

    This is extremely lazy. In what way did Julius Peppers fail as a basketball player? Because hes one of the highest paid players in the NFL, but would probably have the ceiling of NBA reserve as a basketball player? Does that make Allen Iverson a failed football player, since that’s his first love and the sport he’d rather have played?

    • What I’m saying is that both were good enough to have played either sport in college, but prioritized, in the most logical sense. Interesting that Iverson was too small for football, and Peppers was too small for basketball. Maybe you should think a little more before you make sweeping generalizations about athleticism in sports.

      • Iverson would have been a hell of a punt returner.

  30. I agree with your argument about college basketball being inferior to the NBA. But let’s not compare sports and say NBA players would dominate a different sport. LeBron James easily scoring 20 touchdowns for the Browns? Umm… not likely. I’d like to see him block Ray Lewis or run across the middle of the field and get hit by Ray and see if he’s still standing. Sports is sports. Lets leave it that way.

    • LeBron would score 20 touchdowns for a decent NFL team, probably not on the Browns.

  31. Ignorant fans? Well I guess I’m one of those, 20 years removed from my playing career and 8 from my coaching career (Um… where did you play and coach?) To all the other ignorant fans out there I’d recommend they watch college basketball exclusively if they would like to learn the game. Here’s why….. Pros know the game, college kids are still learning it! The pros are so experienced and skilled there is very little opposing coaches can do to knock them off their game, so they resort to the most conservative tactics the game has to offer, the type of game only an extreme underdogs play in college. Pack the lane on defense and keep the ball in the hands of your best players on offense with a few set plays, pick and rolls or even worse isolations. Every NBA game is so predictable everyone knows they can maximize their time vs viewing experience by catching the last 4 minutes of an NBA game along with the highlights following the game. That won’t tell the story of a college game, there are curves and change ups that decide the game. While in the NBA it’s just fastball after fastball. Every 4 years a new group of athletes will have to navigate Rick Pitino’s match up press or Bob Knight’s 5 out motion offense. If you like the NBA you will learn a lot about pick and rolls. But you won’t learn much about flex, princeton, ddm, pressure man, match-up zone, press breaking, drop back presses, half court traps, triangle and 2s, run and jumps, and you might stay an ignorant fan. The NBA play is nothing but a platform for hero worship that destroys team play (As the struggles of USA basketball should have illuminated.)

    • “The NBA play is nothing but a platform for hero worship that destroys team play (As the struggles of USA basketball should have illuminated.)”

      You didn’t sound like a complete moron until this last sentence.

      • “…destorys team play.” Have you ever watched Steve Nash? Chris Paul? The Spurs?

      • I love this comment! After thinking about the subtle points of your argument, I think you may be correct; NBA play is superior. But wait!, as a complete moron maybe I’m wrong and the NBA still sucks balls.

  32. I’m seeing the “money” issue being discussed – How these multimillionaires are reduced to whining hurts the “watch-ability” of the NBA.

    Dont even act like money hasn’t corrupted NCAA either. Kids get cars, homes “close to the university,” shady under-the-table-cash, and scholarships for just being a good player, while they are only subjected to 3 units of a Basket-weaving class per semester. There is a lot of money in NCAA now, and anyone would be a fool to use the “lack of money = basketball purity” argument for NCAA.

    Some of these high level NCAA players are thrown parties for, funded by the schools, which they temp kids from high school with. Their parents will get homes close to the campuses so they urge their kids to go. Every year, some draftee ends up caught for taking loads of money from the Athletics Department (dont take my word for it, google OJ Mayo).

    I hate the “lack of money = better basketball purity” rationale. Act like Nike and all the other huge athletic brands arent all over the NCAA sponsor ships. Dont take my word for it, search the internet for Duke’s NCAA Revenue off Ticket Sales. And you think that money doesnt get trickled down to the players? You’ve got to be kidding me. They get the royal dorms on campus that are the hot spots for all that college tail. They high end college players are on another level too – they live a surreal life too in terms of cash, popularity, benefits and recognition – and with that, is the same corruption you put the NBA down for. In conclusion, the NCAA isnt as innocent as you think in terms of money – you gotta watch a step lower, watch high school, cus NCAA is definitely corrupted by money as well.

    • You know what the only thing NCAA > NBA? Is the crowd.

      In NBA, all the close seats are filled with old white people.

      In College, all the seats at games are filled with drunk young chicks.

      Its just not fair.

      • This is one point I can’t argue with.

  33. I agree with almost everything you said about NBA being better than NCAA. However, to state that NBA’er can dominate another sport if they pacticed it is just ludicrous, especially soccer. I don’t think 1 NBA player can compete in the top level of european ball. It’s not because the NBA player doesn’t have the skill or athleticism, it’s just that they are TOO BIG. Just like there are plenty of awesome BBers who are under 6 feet tall but will NEVER play in the NBA. Basketball at its highest level is dominated by people over 6’6″. Since the majority of the world is under that height, your odds of finding a great athelete will be someone who is shorter. Since soccer is played, at its best by people who are NOT over 6 feet tall, they will have the advatage to draw a more wider pool of players. Let’s face it, physically, there are few players who can be in the NBA due to their size. As a example, Hakeem Olajuwan played soccer and was extremely good, but quite because he got TOO BIG. He went to basketball after he failed in soccer

  34. The problem with the article is that it starts with an obvious premise — that the level of basketball and athleticism in the NBA is higher than in the NCAA — and then takes the logical leap of saying that because it’s better, it must also be more enjoyable to watch. It isn’t, at least for people who actually like: the game of basketball, actual competition, boxing out, etc.

    The level of effort and passion in an average college game is so much higher than at a non-playoff NBA game. Compared to their college cousins, NBA players really, actually, don’t try, especially on defense. That’s also an obvious thing, and if you’ve ever watched an NBA game and an NCAA game back to back there’s no way not to notice it. It’s not just that NBA players make it look easy — they’re just not trying very hard most of the time. And why would they? They’re rock stars who make more money than we could ever dream of making.

    If you want to see more athletic players with fewer basic basketball skills try less and only stay with their team if they get paid enough money, then by all means NBA basketball is for you.

    • Defenders in college basketball let JJ Redick score 25 points a game. Defenders in the NBA shut him down so badly he can’t get on the floor. But defenders in the NBA are the ones who don’t try?

      • yet another person that doesn’t understand the game of basketball.. for some players it takes time to adjust from college to the NBA depending on their style of play. If you ever saw JJ in college you would know many of his points were contested and guarded. I hate to say it but since the NBA is full of black players they cater to each other as well. Since JJ doesnt run the point he is at a disadvantage in that aspect as well. work gaining some worth while perspective. thanks

        20th century motors: Yes he was guarded in college, but the defenders weren’t as good. I think you’d like this league, not because of the race obviously, but because the quality of the fundamentals will be a lot better.

  35. you had me at hello. i thank god for this article.

    • Haha.

  36. Once again everyone knows the NBA has the better athletes and more skilled players. The problem remains the stereotypical play based on playing through a few stars, coupled with road block obstructionist sagging man-to-man defense. Stop bringing up individuals to exemplify team orientation instead of teams. Dump it down in the post if there’s a double team, kick it out to a teammate, rotate the ball in front of the recovering defense, if the jumpers open, shoot, if not pick and roll. BORING! Possession after possession, BORING!

  37. you honestly don’t even understand basketball. the NBA players are better but they play for the money first not the love of the game. that comes second.. they constantly worried about contracts… they play their better games and try harder during contract time. it’s a joke. the playoffs are a different story. the only thing that means anything to most players in the nba’s besides contracts are rings. college basketball is basketball in its purist form. the end. you can argue it all day. that’s just the truth.. if you disagree you are just missing the facts and the point all together. why is it the people with blogs are the ones with the most worthless opinions. hahah

    • Aren’t most college players playing for a ring or for a chance to play professionally?

  38. re: “college players playing for the love of the game”

    a large majority of college players– and especially every single elite one– are playing for a chance to play professionally. the only ones who *might* be playing simply because they enjoy playing the sport and absolutely nothing else are most likely middle class.

    14 year old high schoolers aren’t getting up at 5am to shoot 1000 jumpers before school because they simply love playing basketball. families often living close to the poverty line don’t relocate to have kids play high school ball at prestigious schools just because their kids love the game.

    the ideal of “amateurism” has rarely been little more than a fantasy, and often a fantasy held by the privileged middle-classes who could afford to play sports merely for fun. don’t mention the olympics, because that whole tradition was invented in the late nineteenth century.

    if you wanna keep the discussion going, be my guest

    • I would add to this, but there is nothing to add. Perfectly stated.

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