I like football, but sometimes it bores me. 95% of us do not have the level of concentration required to watch a football match in its entirety. That’s why as spectators, we tend to ‘pad out’ the experience with chanting, drinking and unfalsifiable armchair punditry. Fortunately there is Match of the Day, which allows us to efficiently save the wasted hour of football coverage in which nobody on the pitch does anything interesting. From a lifetime of watching MOTD every other week (and attending the occasional extortionately priced chicken nuggets-fuelled Arsenal game), I have amassed enough football knowledge to proclaim myself a ‘football fan’. However, my interest in football has plateaued and I have no desire to immerse myself further than I already do.
This is almost entirely due to the fact I have discovered a sport that is far superior to football in every way. In the next few paragraphs I will explain why basketball is so great in the hope that one day, people in the UK will give a toss.
Imagine if we cut the middle third out of a football pitch, creating an arena where there is a constant scoring opportunity at one end of the pitch or the other. Watching a basketball match provides this level of constant entertainment, as every moment of play has the potential to land itself onto a highlight reel. Often a Jack Wilshere stepover will provide momentary pleasure to fans, who then experience an equal measure of disappointment as the resulting chance is inevitably squandered. However, acts of astounding technical skill in basketball are usually rewarded in tangible points, giving fans unrestrained levels of satisfaction. To demonstrate my point, please take a moment to watch last season’s top 10 plays.
It’s also off the court where basketball surpasses football. The premier league is a predictable affair and there’s usually a direct correlation between money and success. This cycle is rarely broken as successful teams continue to be successful teams and weaker teams continue to be weaker teams (at least over the course of a single generation). The NBA does not share this problem because of the draft system. At the beginning of every season, teams enter an ordering lottery for picking players who have graduated from college. The system is designed so that weaker teams are given a higher probability of getting top draft picks. This means that a bad team one year could sign a top player the next year. As individual talent is far more important when there are only 5 players in a team’s starting line-up, drafting the next Lebron James really can revolutionise the prospects of a team. This means team’s fortunes are in constant flux. Even the great dynasties of the recent past: The Boston Celtics and the LA Lakers, are now pretty shit. So rather than being a Tottenham fan gaining little satisfaction year upon year, become a fan of the Minnesota Timberwolves who have just signed 6’’7’ college wonderboy Andrew Wiggins.
The yanks are known for super-sizing things, and I feel like as a basketball fan there is just so much more opportunity to be greedy and obsessive. An NBA team plays 3-4 times a week so there are games every single night of the season. While I often am too busy clubbing to watch the games, I manage to fit in an episode of ‘top ten plays’ every day which keeps me dreaming of dunks. It’s the stats which really get my balls bouncing. Football fans have their goals and assist tallies, but basketball has shooting percentages, point averages, turnovers, blocks, steals and complex ratios which try to work out the player’s exact impact on a team win. The game is so intensely and acutely quantified that every touch of the ball matters…at least to somebody out there.
I’m not asking for a lot football fans. I’m simply asking that you go on nba.com for 5 minutes a day and watch ‘Top Plays’. Open your minds to a wonderful world of sex, skills and stats. As the Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan once said: “Never say never, because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion”.