Lists, Pop Culture, Race & Politics, Theory & Essay, Uncategorized

5 Reasons Why The NBA is Better Than The NFL

I started calling myself “The Champ” in February of 2006, a week or so after the Pittsburgh Steelers won Super Bowl XL. At first it was a bit of tongue-in-cheek homage to a Bill Simmons joke–after he won a fantasy football championship, he started referring to himself as “The Champ” for a year –but the name (obviously) stuck with me.  I didn’t mind though. The Steelers have so permeated my fabric that the idea of permanently adopting a Steeler-based pseudonym seemed (and still seems) perfectly normal.

But, as this NFL season approaches, I’ve come to realize my affection for the black and gold isn’t extended to the league as a whole. Sure, I enjoy watching professional football, but when the Steelers aren’t playing, it doesn’t completely consume me in the way it does much of America. Wait, let me rephrase that. It doesn’t completely consume me in the way the NBA does.

You know, it’s interesting being a diehard NBA fan these days. Despite the fact that everything from the overall talent level to the television ratings has been steadily increasing for the past decade, the league is still faced with a ton of negative (and contradictory) PR¹.

Depending on who you talk to, there’s either too much defense or too much offense, the games are too boring or the games are too filled with highlights, the players are too soft or the players are too thuggish, the league is too Euro or the league is too urban, and usually these pointed complaints are made by people who say they don’t actually watch the games.

Seriously, defending the NBA today is like dating a great woman who everyone thinks has been around, even though nobody has ever actually met anyone she’s been with.

Admittedly, I have a few biases. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I played college basketball. Also, my father (and one of my uncles) played college ball as well, my closest friend coaches pro ball in Europe, and I have a cousin who’s played in the NBA. I’m a stone-cold hoops junkie surrounded by stone-cold hoops junkies.

Biases aside, it’s still easy for me to find 5 reasons why the NBA is just better than the NFL.

1. The players have actual power

In the NFL, the (primarily black) athletes are the working class while the (overwhelmingly white) coaches, management, and ownership serve as the aristocracy. In this dynamic, with the exception of a few white quarterbacks (ie: Favre, Manning, Brady, Brees), the players wield no power. None.

A great example of this general powerlessness is occurring in New York City right now, as grossly underpaid Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis (arguably the best defensive player in football) deserves a lucrative new contract, but the team is under no obligation (or pressure) to appease him. He has no real leverage, and because of this, he’ll probably end up signing a new contract paying him maybe 50% of what his services are worth (as opposed to the current contract paying him 15% of what he’s worth), even though he knows since NFL contracts aren’t guaranteed, they could release him at any point during the contract and not pay him a dime. (They wouldn’t do that, but they could)

Regardless of how you feel about Lebron James and his ill-conceived decision show, you have to admit he took advantage of every ounce of his personal leverage to achieve his desired result. While Lebron’s situation is an extreme example, no other professional athletes are as self-aware as NBA players, and in no other team sport are black professional athletes afforded the same opportunity to take advantage of this self-awareness. They know they’re valuable commodities with a finite window of earning power, and they act accordingly because they have leverage. They have power.

2. The best team always wins the championship

In the National Football League, a team can sneak into the playoffs after winning approximately half of their regular season games, catch a couple of somewhat lucky breaks, and make it all the way to the Super Bowl. With a few more lucky breaks, they can win the Super Bowl. While this unpredictable parity is usually lauded as one of the best things about the NFL, it’s completely unfair, completely wrong, and easily one of my least favorite things about the league. (I’m not the only one who feels this way, btw)

Seriously, imagine if other fields were set up similarly to the NFL (and the NCAA tournament). Think about how unfair school would be if a person who earned D minuses all semester long was able to get an “A” for the year if he just got a couple B pluses on his last two exams.

With its best-of-seven game playoff series format, the NBA ensures that flukey sh*t like this doesn’t occur. It’s the only true meritocracy in sports. The best teams, the teams most deserving of winning, usually win. If you want to win in the NBA playoffs, you have to actually go and get better. You can’t rely on bad weather or lucky breaks to help your cause.

If a team gets hot, catches a few lucky breaks, and beats the favored team, great! Good for you. Now, do it three more times if you want to advance.

3. Bigots hate it

The one infallible lesson we’ve learned in our 400 years in this country is if bigots universally hate something, that something is usually a great thing. From slavery and women’s suffrage to Manhattan and Michelle Obama, this test has never been wrong. Seriously, if you’re ever confused about where you should stand on a controversial topic or issue, just ask the nearest bigot and do the exact opposite of what he suggests and you’ll be right as rain. And, since bigots unanimously hate the NBA (seriously. if you ever want to find out if someone’s a racist, ask him to share his thoughts about the NBA), there’s obviously an inherent super positive quality about professional basketball that NFL stans just haven’t recognized yet.

4. Skill matters

Why is this true? Well, just let me put it this way: Dwyane Wade. Lebron James. Derrick Rose. Nate Robinson. Shannon Brown. Rajon Rondo. These are just a few of the dozens of NBA players who have the athletic chops to be able to retire from the NBA today, and get signed by an NFL team tomorrow.

The number of NFL players who could do the same? Zero

I’m not suggesting NFL players aren’t extremely skilled at their crafts, and I’m not attempting to minimize the amount of energy and work it takes to be a professional football player. But, as any athlete will tell you, it’s much more difficult to make an NBA roster than an NFL team because pro-level basketball is much more difficult to play than pro-level football.

Don’t believe me? Well it can’t be too difficult to make the roster in a sport where this guy..

…is a number one draft pick.

5. Each player matters too

From the otherworldlyness of Ron Artest to the perpetually petulant Kobe Bryant, each NBA player has a unique personality, skill set, and narrative. Even marginal players–like a Rafer Alston or Delonte West–have their own distinct and distinguishable qualities, and each of these characteristics are easily seen by the public.

And, while the NFL tries to sell you on the concept that it’s the only true team sport, the one place where each individual part matters as much as the next, in reality the National Football League is comprised of a few superstars (the aforementioned quarterbacks and a few other marquee players) and a bunch of anonymous and interchangeable drones.

There are no personalities, just 32 mega corporations each headed by 30 to 35 year old white males who rule over a bunch of throwaway parts. This is strongly and sadly evidenced by the very real fact that, as long as it’s people like Chris Henry and Andre Waters dying, nobody seems to care that the NFL is turning its players into mush brained zombies.

Damn, I guess this truly makes the NFL America’s game. But, it doesn’t make it better.

¹My three favorites theories about why the NBA gets so much negative P.R.
A) There hasn’t been a white American basketball superstar since Larry Bird, and the fact that there’s no one for middle America to really root for cultivates a general disinterest with much of (white) America. There are no Mississippi farm boys (Favre), royal families (The Mannings), or superstar heartthrobs (Brady). This isn’t racist. It’s just hard for many to get behind a sport when you feel like you can’t relate to any of the players. In turn, this disinterest eventually turns into distaste.
B) For almost a decade, the best NBA basketball has been played out west. Phoenix, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Denver, and Utah have all had consistently good teams, while New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Washington, and (up until 3 years ago) Boston have consistently sucked. Thing is, the majority of the nations important sports media is located in the Northeast. And, since they haven’t had winners in their home cities for the past 10 years, they’ve written and reported with an anti-NBA slant. This actually leads to…
C) Casual NFL fans are more sophisticated than casual NBA fans. Wait, let me rephrase that. Casual NFL fans are more accepting of and willing to learn about football strategy than casual NBA fans are of basketball strategy. For instance, when a star NFL player has difficulties, the announcers point out that “Manning has always had difficulties against the Cover 2. Lets see if he can make adjustments at halftime” and people accept this as truth. When an star NBA player has difficulties, the announcers might point out a certain defensive tactic the other team is using, but the casual fan usually ends up thinking “Damn. Carmelo just isn’t giving any effort tonight. Damn overpaid NBA diva.” And, I think the casual fan’s willingness to give NFL players the benefit of the doubt (and not NBA players) is partially due to media influence. If you hear “NBA players don’t care” enough, you’ll start to believe it.

—The Champ

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Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a contributing editor for EBONY.com. He resides in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes.

  • Mr SoBo

    By the power of Greyskull!

    • legitimate_soul

      You go, Mr SoBo!!! Good for you! *passes you gift wrapped package of fresh wife beaters and cues victory music* :)

      • http://twitter.com/ManAboutIt Man About It

        Vixen avatar FTW! Quite underrated superheroine WRT her ability set.

        • legitimate_soul

          @Man About It,
          Thank you for the avatar love!

      • http://www.twitter.com/quiethaylestorm Keisha Brown

        LMAO @ wife beaters.

    • Beremore

      HE-MAN!

      I love it! Congrats on the top spot. That was one of my FAV cartoons growing up. My brother was he-man and I was she-ra! Ahh to be 3 again :)

    • http://twitter.com/SmartFoxGirl SmartFoxGirl

      This caught me off guard so much, I started coughing. Funny! Congrats

    • Mackenzie Pantoja

      Compare the vertical leaps of NFL athletes compared to NBA, it’s not even close. The NFL wins easily. The highest STANDING vertical jump ever recorded at the NBA combine was 38 inches by Harrison Barnes. 18 NFL players beat that at the last combine. The highest ever in the NFL was 46, by Gerald Sensabaugh. That is better than Vince Carter’s RUNNING vertical. And Vince Carter can jump. Just not like an NFL player can.

  • Andi

    KAMEHA MEHA!!!!
    Wait….

    • Andi

      DARNNIT!!!! Got my 90s anime mixed up…. Anywho, you make some good points with this post Champ, but it doesn’t really matter to me cuz I’m a Southern lady. Southern Ladies are required to do three things:

      - plant tomatoes
      - where hats to church
      - worship the game of football

      #yeshrug…

      • Andi

        ugh, that should be wear. I’m too tired for homophones! My point still stands.

      • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

        Anywho, you make some good points with this post Champ, but it doesn’t really matter to me cuz I’m a Southern lady. Southern Ladies are required to do three things:

        lol, yeah. i realize its embedded in the culture down there (sh*t, up here too). but, so is the confederate flag.

        • http://www.pinchmycheekie.blogspot.com Cheekie

          lmao

  • Mr SoBo

    I have the poweeeeerrrrrrr!!!!!!

    • Andi

      NOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! *Dramatically falls, hand reaching out anime style…*

      • Mr SoBo

        …Andi became my b*tch. And I became …He-Man, THE MOST POWERFUL MAN IN THE UNIVERSE!

        • Andi

          o_O………………… #RileyVoice Ninja you gay!

          Everyone knows He-Man likes the pen…

        • Mr. Gundam

          “And I became …He-Man, THE MOST POWERFUL MAN IN THE UNIVERSE!”

          Wait, I though that was batman?! lol

          • santa monica

            batmans’ not even in the running. superman and wolverine would both take him out in the preliminaries lol, its most definitely the silver surfer.

            • http://www.pinchmycheekie.blogspot.com Cheekie

              Batman is better because he fought and beat Superman’s villians…without the superpowers. Fin.

            • http://uphereoncloud9.wordpress.com/ Wu Young Agent of M.E.

              @santa monica

              *nerd moment* Unless Superman sneaks up on Batman, he could take an L to Bats. He carries kryptonite every where he goes.

              • legitimate_soul

                *thinks of Jim Lee drawing with Supes choking the ‘ish outta’ Bats*

              • http://uphereoncloud9.wordpress.com/ Wu Young Agent of M.E.

                I still maintain the Batman wouldn’t be as feared if he was in the Marvel Universe but I’m biased.

              • Rog

                “*nerd moment* Unless Superman sneaks up on Batman, he could take an L to Bats. He carries kryptonite every where he goes.”

                Pretty much, and if you go by the Justice League Unlimited Batman has the means to take out pretty much anyone in the League.

                But Green Lantern still remains the absolute favorite superheroe (Hal Jordan and Jonathan Stewart) then after that its Flash.

              • legitimate_soul

                Supes ain’t gotta sneak up on Bats. He got red laser beams out his eyes and icey cold breathe. He can eff’ Bats up at will. If Joker can get to Bats at times, Supes definitely can. He is Superman. Supes been around Krytonite and still beat adversaries. Plus, Supes scales down his power so as not to hurt innocent bystanders. He has the power to punch and create sonic booms, so as much as I like Bats and how skilled he is without super power, he is NOT effin’ with Superman. Not even with kryptonite draws.

        • Hawaii

          This made laugh out loud for at least 7 minutes.

  • Beremore

    YESSSS!!!! (I haven’t read the post yet but the title in and of itself is GOLD!) :)

    good job Champ! Ok now to read…

    • Leila

      I haven’t read the post yet but the title in and of itself is GOLD

      Yup! I co-signed on the blog just from the title alone

  • http://www.unepetitefillenoire.blogspot.com KayBeezy

    Interesting piece.
    You convinced me that the NBA is better than the NFL (it didn’t take much because the NFL is wack with a capital sorry), but I still think NCAA Football trumps all American sports leagues in terms of excitement, authenticity and awesomeness.I can’t wait for college football season.
    In general the NBA, NFL, MLB, ABCDEFG has nothing on soccer/(football) season.

    • http://thecochranfirm.wordpress.com/2010/08/19/the-id-the-ego-and-eddie-kane-jr/ Dash of The Newport Dashers

      Soccer as a TV spectator sport has always left me wanting. It in no way matches the excitement of playing the sport. The emphasis on ball control rather that attacking in the pro game robbed it of the dynamism that was found in the game 10 to 15 years ago.

      • Toch_L(vsb)

        Actually Dash, you cant have an attacking offense if you dont have ball control and strategy. Soccer is an intelligent game

        • http://thecochranfirm.wordpress.com/2010/08/19/the-id-the-ego-and-eddie-kane-jr/ Dash of The Newport Dashers

          The strategy of the game has trended too far to the defensive side of the ball.Even Brazil is being expected to dial back the attack. Players skill levels are higher than ever, and they should be allowed to play in an aggressive dive free game.

          Sidenote; Football/Soccer is arguably the least intelligent of the major team sports. Football, Hockey, Basketball, and Baseball are all more cerebral games with more options for strategy.

          • Lindy Delapenha

            The least intelligent? How can you support such a statement considering the fact that a midfielder is required to do so much. The pitch is larger and there is almost constant movement. If anything the NFL is the least intelligent because play is continually stopped. allowing for decisions to be made under less pressure.

        • Anita

          Agreed, its an Intelligent and patient game. I love soccer and its not for the weak hearted.

          • Thriller

            Soccer is THE most intelligent sport. The manager/coach is the most important person & tactics often win trophies.

            http://www.zonalmarking.net/2010/04/20/inter-3-1-barcelona-tactics-guardiola-mourinho/

            Although that is very detailed. Soccer fans moan about managers tactics/selections/transfer decisions much more than individual player performances.

            Ball Control vs Attacking doesn’t make any sense unless you’re talking about keeping possession and building long slow attacks vs. having fast paced passing, quick exciting attacks but have little of the ball i general play.

    • P.

      College football is by far the best sport. To quote Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated, the NFL is the “antithesis of everything that makes college football special.”

      The NBA has been unwatchable for quite a bit, but the NFL is doing its damnedest to catch up at an exponential rate. You couldn’t convince me that either one of them is better than chasing a shot of diesel fuel with antifreeze.

      • Beremore

        “The NBA has been unwatchable for quite a bit, but the NFL is doing its damnedest to catch up at an exponential rate. ”

        This is honestly very true, the pro leagues are actually pretty garbage and only get exciting toward the end of the season when playoffs happen and its time to see who will be on top by the end of it all. NCAA is definitely where the purity of the game still lies… BUT I’m by far a basketball fan over football any and everyday so *shrug* viva la NBA

        • http://thecochranfirm.wordpress.com/2010/08/19/the-id-the-ego-and-eddie-kane-jr/ Dash of The Newport Dashers

          I am offended by the purity of the game argument for The NCAA.

          • Rog

            “I am offended by the purity of the game argument for The NCAA.”

            Lol, Yeah no kidding, isn’t Reggie Miles-Austin-is-boning-my-ex Bush getting ready to give his trophy back?

          • P.

            Yeah I was going to say that even though I like it better, that whole purity of college athletics thing doesn’t fly nowadays, and hasn’t for a number of years.

            • Beremore

              Ok maybe I should say purity in the play, not the actual characters and people necessarily. I just mean in the NCAA you still see real heart and fundamentals going on to get the win, its fun to watch. In the NBA and NFL you don’t see that as much… At least I don’t *shrug*

              • http://thecochranfirm.wordpress.com/2010/08/19/the-id-the-ego-and-eddie-kane-jr/ Dash of The Newport Dashers

                Not to be a prick, but the level of play even for the best teams is often very low. I think people get bored with the NBA because the mistakes made by players in the college game that leads to those floor burns do not occur as much when the game is played by elite players.

              • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

                “I think people get bored with the NBA because the mistakes made by players in the college game that leads to those floor burns do not occur as much when the game is played by elite players.”

                exactly. if you smack the floor while playing d at duke, the crowd and the announcers go crazy. if you smack the floor like that in the nba, chris paul is blowing right past you and getting an and1.

                also, you’ve touched on another perception problem with the nba. the players look so naturally gifted that (at times) it appears that they’re not giving any effort.

    • http://www.twitter.com/quiethaylestorm keisha brown

      caveat: not being an american means i dont have any deep rooted affiliation with any team/state/city/school.
      but i will continue to boycott NCAA football until they come up with a better system than the BCS.
      and because the kraft fight hunger bowl and beef o brady bowl both require the legitsoul side-eye. e_O.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_college_bowl_games

    • V Renee

      but I still think NCAA Football trumps all American sports leagues in terms of excitement, authenticity and awesomeness.I can’t wait for college football season. .

      Seeing as to how I bleed scarlet and grey, (GO BUCKEYES) I am inclined to agree with this.

      • The Law

        GO BLUE!!

        thatisall

        • P.

          “GO BLUE!!”

          lmfao.
          Signed,
          Me and the rest of the Class of 2010 of The Ohio State University

        • MzPW

          Dear The Law,

          I love you.

          And as ALWAYS….GO BLUE!

          Love,
          MzPW

  • http://www.iamyourpeople.com I Am Your People

    Ah yes, 2006, when the Seahawks lost the Super Bowl and the SuperSonics were sold out. Since the NBA rolled out of town, I’ve only watched the NBA playoffs, not the regular season. In other words, I mostly watch baseball.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      ***filed under “things usually said right before someone goes on suicide watch”***

      seriously though, it must suck to be a seattle sports fan. i feel for you

  • P.

    “it’s much more difficult to make an NBA roster than an NFL team because pro-level basketball is much more difficult to play than pro-level football.”

    it’s much more difficult to make an NBA roster because there are more people competing for less spots. Simple as that.

    By any stretch of the imagination, pro basketball certainly is not “much more” difficult than pro football, if at all.

    • Rog

      “it’s much more difficult to make an NBA roster because there are more people competing for less spots. Simple as that.

      By any stretch of the imagination, pro basketball certainly is not “much more” difficult than pro football, if at all.”

      Dammit you snatched them again, the reason NFL rosters tend to be so deep is partly due to the increased likelihood of your main player getting injured. They need depth to take pressure off those guys.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      “it’s much more difficult to make an NBA roster because there are more people competing for less spots. Simple as that.”

      this is true. there are more roster spots/jobs in the NFL (approximately 1000 more). my point is that it takes a more refined skill set to be a high level basketball player, skills that take years to develop.

      put it this way: you can teach a great athlete who’s never touched a football before–but who already knows how to run and catch, things everybody knows how to do–how to run a route in a week. try teaching someone who has never touched a basketball before how to dribble one, or how to shoot a jumpshot in a week

      • P.

        You can teach them how to run a route in a week, just like I can teach somebody how to shoot a basketball in a week. In neither scenario will one be worth anything.

        • Thriller

          The Champ is confusing athleticism with skill.

          Being fast (which a lot of NBA players aren’t really, at 6″5 Usain Bolt is a freak of nature.. 5″8 to 6″2 are optimum height for speed) or strong is not a skill.

          You can have all the natural b’ball talent in the world. If your 5″8 you aint gunna make it,

  • themagicman

    From one basketball player to another, i have to totally agree with this list. You can make a football team by simply being 400 pounds. (Pls see any offensive lineman in the college). Basketball is a sport of skill and finesse, that takes decades to prefect. I knew i effed with this blog for a reason.Thanks for pointing this out.

    • P.

      And? You can make a basketball team by being tall.

      • Rog

        “And? You can make a basketball team by being tall.”

        Took the words right out my mouth, a 400 pound dude wouldn’t survive due to most likely not having much stamina.

      • Beremore

        “You can make a basketball team by being tall.”

        Maybe in high school this might be true, but unless you are coordinated and are able to provide some sort of viable defense, rebounding or scoring skill… coaches are not putting 7′ tall homie on the court just cause he can stand in the paint and be in the way. Basketball is too fast paced and skilled for that tomfoolery. If you’ve got Andre the Giant in the game and he isn’t pulling his weight you’re shooting your own self in the foot. Don’t get it twisted… Yao Ming, Shaq, KG… all some TALL a** Ninjas with skills

        • P.

          Just like you wouldn’t put a 400 pound lineman in a game if he stands straight up at the snap, blows assignments, gets put on his back every play, and compromises the health and efficiency of the offense whenever he’s on the field?

          Exactly.

        • Rog

          “Maybe in high school this might be true, but unless you are coordinated and are able to provide some sort of viable defense, rebounding or scoring skill… coaches are not putting 7? tall homie on the court just cause he can stand in the paint and be in the way. Basketball is too fast paced and skilled for that tomfoolery. If you’ve got Andre the Giant in the game and he isn’t pulling his weight you’re shooting your own self in the foot. Don’t get it twisted… Yao Ming, Shaq, KG… all some TALL a** Ninjas with skills”

          The same idea applies for football, in high school I played against dudes that were just big for no reason. The coaches put them in there solely to take up space and make it hard to get around them. When you get to the college level that stops all together, you can’t be big just to be big theres A LOT of athleticism involved with the big dudes (I know I was one of ‘em) case in point Haloti Ngata http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iy0FqWae0o4 6’4″ 350 and the coaches put him in at LB sometimes. He’s not just a fat boy.

        • Lindy Delapenha

          Does anyone not remember the era Muresan and Manute Bol. Has anyone here even played high school level football? If you did you would not be making such silly claims. That same 400lber your talking about is stronger than you, more agile than you, faster than you and if he is an olineman, he’s smarter than pretty much all nba players. Do people not realized the mental prowess necessary to play center

          • Shay

            You have impressed me with this comment.

            A center is supposed to know every other lineman’s blocking assignments, for every play, as well as which defender receives first priority (gap, head up, outside).

            D-Line is responsible for remember which gap they are shooting depending on which stunts or formation they are running.

            People don’t give linemen credit that they deserve. It’s more then just lining up and bashing into each other.

            • ComicBookGuy

              The battle in the trenches has affected the outcome of more football games than people realize.

            • Rog

              “D-Line is responsible for remember which gap they are shooting depending on which stunts or formation they are running.

              People don’t give linemen credit that they deserve. It’s more then just lining up and bashing into each other.”

              They really don’t, as a noseguard in the 3-4 the defense operating successfully falls your shoulders. Mess up your gap assignments and you and the Linebacker are attacking the same hole allowing the runningback to hit the vacated spot on the field which equals either a touchdown or a long run. A guy like Fat-Albert Haynesworth is valuable because he occupy’s blockers and lets the Linebackers run free to make plays. The fat dudes are vastly important.

  • JD

    Getting in here before the season regulars start their personal banter. Yes, this blog is completely biased.

    • http://verysmartbrothas.com The Champ

      in what way (not denying the bias, btw)

  • thatchic

    being from the south..texas that is…i have to stay on the nfl bandwagon. sorry they’ll kick me out if i don’t say that. go cowboys!