As March Madness approaches each year, the excitement surrounding the game of basketball always seems to reach new heights, with seemingly more and more people making brackets and betting on who will take each game in the National College Athletic Association Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament. With the excitement comes the fans who will inevitably make the claim that watching college basketball is so much better than watching National Basketball Association games. Sure, there are some great college games that can be really fun to watch, but overall NBA games are much more entertaining.
Many who claim college basketball’s superiority use defense as an example to support their argument. They will often say that no one in the NBA plays defense and that college players exhibit more fundamentals in their playing and show more effort on the defensive end of the floor, however, that does not represent the NBA as a whole. Many NBA All-Stars, such as LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins and several others show that defense is imperative to the success of any team in the league, not to mention the lesser-known players who may focus exclusively on defense.
The reason NBA defense may seem weak at times is because many players are nearly unstoppable on the offensive end. Although many will argue that college basketball players put more defensive pressure on their opponents, they also don’t have to deal with trying to guard the best offensive players in the world for 48 minutes a game throughout an 82-game season.
According to ncaa.org, there is just above a one percent chance that an NCAA basketball player will make it into the NBA. There are only 60 draft picks each year in the NBA, so only the absolute best of the best 18,684 NCAA basketball players will ever have a chance to move up to the NBA. That doesn’t even include players from international leagues being drafted into the NBA either.
NBA players get paid millions of dollars a year because they are the best basketball players in the world. Even a guy who sits on the bench and plays five minutes a game beat more than 18,000 other people to be in that position. Each player in the NBA was one of, if not the best player on their teams in both high school and college.
This is why NBA basketball is so much more entertaining than college basketball. The players in the NBA are playing at the highest level possible in their sport. Most NBA players who have won both Olympic gold medals and NBA championships say that getting a ring was more important to them, because despite other players around the world providing some competition now and then, the NBA remains the most competitive and demanding realm of basketball. There is something about seeing the best players in the world compete against one another that dwarfs the value of college kids playing against each other, however talented they may be.
Some who prefer college basketball like to point out the seemingly growing disparity in the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers compared to the other teams in the league as a reason why the NBA is less entertaining and less competitive than college. While I admit that I’ve grown tired of seeing these two stacked teams duke it out in the finals for the past three years, I would argue that several teams around the league have become more competitive to adjust
Teams such as the Houston Rockets and the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference have pulled in some big-name players this year to compete against the reigning Warriors, and out East the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics are playing much better than the Cavs in just about every way possible.
The great thing about the NBA that isn’t really possible in college basketball is the personal player and team narratives. Last year I loved rooting for Russell Westbrook as he had a historical MVP season, averaging a triple-double throughout the entire year, just after his All-Star teammate Kevin Durant left to join the already-dominant Warriors.
Because college players can only spend four years playing on a team, there are constantly new, fresh faces on every team. Sure, there can be some interesting personal narratives of players in college, but none reach the scale of seeing a player evolve over 10 or 15-year career in the NBA. While rivalries definitely exist in the world of college basketball, they usually can be attributed more to the school’s history than the individual players.
Many of the players in a college rivalry may have never played each other, whereas NBA opponents meet each other several times a year and the rivalries are usually due to past, heated playoff series.
Some people dedicate their lives to sports, but at the end of the day, sports exist as a form of entertainment, not to discount the countless hours that people put into their sport. As someone who loves watching the game of basketball I respect the players, coaches and people involved in every level of the sport, but I can’t help but favor the NBA over the widely-loved college basketball because of the pure entertainment factor.