Each year March Madness offers countless baskbetball fans a glimpse into the world of college basketball. The popularity of this event speaks volumes for the allure of NCAA basketball, but is it more appealing than its professional NBA counterpart? Two contributors weigh in on the better level of ball.
For: NCAA Basketball
The debate between college sports and professional sports rages on year after year. For basketball, however, that discussion can be easily put to rest. College basketball is better than its professional counterpart, because of the relatability of the athletes at the college level, and the quality of its post-season.
Some argue that the NCAA product may be diluted, due to the vast disparity in talent between the perennial powerhouses and the low-major minnows. However, this talent gulf exists in the NBA to an even greater extent. For instance, in the past 30 years, the Larry O’Brien trophy has been lifted 25 times by just five teams. Essentially, if your team is not located in a major television market (Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles), there is a miniscule chance that they will have any post-season glory.
Another prominent argument in favour of the NCAA is the fact that the players are not paid. In the NBA, financial motivation can significantly alter a player’s ambitions. In a contract year, for instance, a player may give his all in order to earn a higher paycheque the following summer. Once that player is paid, however, the incentive to provide a full effort every game is diminished. In college, while some are playing primarily to make the NBA, most student athletes are playing because of their pure love for the game.
However, the most glaring indicator of why the NCAA is better, has to do with the cultural phenomenon that is sweeping the continent at this very moment: March Madness. A league should place a premium on the quality of its playoffs, and the NCAA has arguably ,the best post-season of any major sport. There is typically little to no drama or suspense surrounding the NBA Playoffs. This trend continues this year as Miami, San Antonio, and Oklahoma City are the only realistic title contenders. On the other hand, the structure of March Madness is far more watchable and exciting. If you lose, you’re out; it’s that simple. As a result, the tournament is almost completely unpredictable. One only needs to fill out a bracket to realize that anything is possible when there is only one game on the line. The biggest players rise up to the occasion, and the phonies shy awsportay from the bright lights—the mentally strong are the ones who survive. Moreover, coaching takes on a far greater importance as the X’s and O’s actually make a difference in comparison to the thousands of isolation plays in the NBA playoffs.
There are no Cinderellas in the NBA—just corrupt, wicked step-sisters who only care about making sure that their numbers are balanced. The players in the NBA may be more talented, but the NCAA allows each and every one of us to fall in love with a bunch of no-names who have the guts to deliver blow after knock-out blow to Goliaths. It gives us something to relate to, something to believe in, and reminds us that any one of us can have our own shining moment.
For: NBA Basketball
Russell. Wilt. Kareem. Bird. Magic. Jordan. Kobe. LeBron.
These are the names that have elevated basketball to its current status as an international sport juggernaut. These players’ standings as singular-name icons is a testament to the growth of NBA basketball and its presence in our everyday lives.
While some of these basketball greats used the NCAA as their stepping stone onto the sports scene, the NBA is where they truly cement their legacies and turn into basketball legends. This is due to the nature of the league itself, where only the best of the best from around the world play every night. Those who thrive in the NBA play against the top competition possible, and, as such, are justly awarded a place in the history books.
On the other hand, while college basketball certainly has its fair share of skilled players, very few would claim that it boasts the world’s best players—not even the most ardent fans of the college basketball scene. The NCAA consists primarily of American players coached and raised with the same playing style. As athletes directly out of high school, the skill levels for the majority of students are still raw. Furthermore, the extremely high player turnover rate in the NCAA does not provide enough time for players to establish a legacy for themselves. In comparison, the athletes of the NBA are famous for their career storylines and the twists and turns organic to them. They build themselves a legacy.
In addition, the lack of international variety amongst the amateur league’s roster is blatant. When was the last time the NCAA featured a pleasantly mellifluous name such as the likes of Bismack Biyombo or Ricky Rubio?
Yet the NBA has one of the greatest displays of diversity on a nightly basis. The vast international audience allows the league to reach out to countries all around the world and create a wider viewership of the games. This coming in stark contrast to the intense hunt necessary to catch a rare glimpse of an NCAA game during the regular season. While both the NCAA and NBA are suffering from the commercial gigantism of the sport, the NBA does have greater media accessibility, providing fans simpler means to connect with their favourite teams or players.
Ultimately, the debate between NCAA and NBA basketball comes down to the fan experience. While supposed basketball purists may tout the college game’s “rugged” playing style—which is, quite frankly, another way to say that it’s boring—the NBA features offences and defences of every kind, including those that resemble the team-oriented approach of the NCAA. Furthermore, the NBA is famous for its elite athleticism on display every night, which makes for an incredibly enjoyable experience for the fans.
There is a reason why March Madness is the only time of the year when the NCAA scene really comes alive. It occurs just prior to the NBA playoffs, and acts as a brief burst of excitement during the ‘dog days’ of the NBA regular season. The real test of NCAA and NBA basketball popularity is obvious: if March Madness coincided with the NBA playoffs, which one would fans watch? The answer is easy.
Winner is …. NBA Basketball
Although March Madness is an incredible tournament and exhibition of skills, the lack of interest of most fans throughout the regular NCAA season hinders its popularity. Meanwhile, in the NBA, excitement throughout not just the entire season, but also the off-season, coupled with the league’s explosive talent make it the undeniable winner.