College basketball and NBA fans have seemingly been at odds since Joseph Naismith first started tossing balls into suspended peach baskets.
I have always fallen on the NBA’s side of the argument. When I was growing up, I was not raised to love either the NBA or college basketball. As a kid, the Lakers of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal were dominating the professional league. I was enthralled by their play, the pure dominance with which they went out and defeated teams night in and night out; and I was hooked on the NBA.
One of the best parts of cheering for the Lakers during those years was knowing the ride did not have to end after a single season. Even given the now frenzied nature of free agency and offseason trades, it is still possible for a team such as the Spurs to carry the same core players for years (even as they get old enough to begin sorting through nursing home pamphlets). Compare this to college basketball, where a team like Kentucky can go from NIT-bound to national number one with a snap of John Calipari’s fingers. With so many players bolting college for the NBA, the NCAA can never hope to establish the same kind of continuity as the pros.
Another thing that impresses me about the NBA is the overall talent level, which is far and away better than anywhere in the world. In college, there are perhaps one or two players per Division I team with the capability to play in the NBA. Even these players are far from locks to be great pros. For every Anthony Davis, there are several more Kwame Browns or Adam Morrisons, players who dominated in college or high school but never found their footing in the NBA.
Of course, the NBA is far from perfect. The season is too long (personally, I think the lockout-shortened season several years ago was the perfect length), there are too many meaningless regular-season games and the playoffs are designed to allow so few upsets. Yet these are problems college ball faces as well. For every magical first-round upset during March Madness, how many teams seeded eight and lower actually have a chance of cutting down the nets as champions in the end? And raise your hand if you tuned in for the November showdown between Duke and (insert tiny mid-western agricultural college here). Now put your hand down if you go to Duke. Suddenly I don’t see any hands.
The disturbing trend of tanking—actively losing to ensure better draft status—is certainly taking its toll on the NBA. One day, college basketball may in fact surpass its older brother. But until they solve the one-and-done trend, college hoops simply cannot match the NBA’s continuity and talent level.
College basketball is recognized all over the United States, just as much as the NBA. In the NCAA, basketball is the most recognized sport over baseball, lacrosse, football, etc. According to ESPN.com, Division I consists of 351 basketball teams. As for the NBA, there is only 30 teams. The competition in college basketball is extraordinary; these players are relentless, as they all want to win.
NBA games are predictable. The competition never changes but only gets older; once superstars get older they start taking rest days. Who takes rest days? I went to a Knicks and Warriors game a few weeks back, and Carmelo Anthony decided he needed a rest day. It is unfair to the fans who came out to watch him (LIKE ME!). The Spurs and multiple teams spoil their players by allowing them to take rest days, ruining the enjoyment of watching the game. Sorry for the tangent, but the point I am getting at is the NBA is full of babied superstars that lost the intensity they had in college or high school.
College basketball is a different environment. The energy level between the fans and players is something you will not find at a NBA game. In college basketball they are not playing for the money; however, they are playing to be recognized by NBA teams in order to get to the money. The competition is always changing as players are constantly being recruited. We are introduced to players that we would not be able to watch in the NBA. These players are unique they are usually the sixth man on the team who hustles harder than some NBA players. Therefore, you do not have teams like the Spurs who had the same lineup for years. It can get boring to watch the same team for years. Yet a college team’s starting five are constantly changing yearly. March Madness is shortly approaching. This is when the NBA is completely ignored and college basketball becomes the center of attention. Players fight and give it their all during this time. Countless people will be dunked on, blocked or hit a game winner; thus the reason I prefer to watch college basketball. Something extraordinary always happens as they play 40 minutes of basketball with the same intensity, whether winning or losing. The NBA has nothing on college basketball. Whether I watch the game on TV or at the arena, I will always say college basketball is most enjoyable to watch.