I split Denver Nuggets season tickets with a few friends and two weeks ago we held our lottery to see which games we were going to this year. High on my list were the two Memphis Grizzlies games, and for those knowledgeable with my Mizzou infatuation, you will understand the reason: former Mizzou standout, and current NBA rookie, DeMarre Carroll.
So this past Sunday I went to the Nuggets-Grizzlies game, which turned out to be a defensive-minded 133-123 slugfest.
Having these Nuggets season tickets, and being a season ticket holder before, I have seen a good amount of NBA games despite not growing up liking or caring about the pro style.
I grew up in a college town (Columbus, OH) and went to school in a state without pro basketball, so naturally the NBA was not a high priority on my watch list. Even while my Chicago-raised college friends were watching Jordan win 6 NBA titles, I didn't pay much attention.
That changed when I moved to Denver and started following the then-lowly Nuggets. I started watching them because nobody else was. They would win less that 20 games per season when I moved to town and I could get front row seats from scalpers for $10 or $15 a ticket. At that time I wouldn't miss it when the Clippers visited to catch Keyon Dooling.
Fast forward nearly 10 years, and you can catch me watching the Nuggets through most of their 82 games.
During the fall and winter months, if I am watching sports, the only thing that supersedes the Nuggets would be when Mizzou is on (thanks to the Full Court package I haven't missed a Mizzou game in years).
So with that as a background, I can say with good accuracy that I now know both the NBA and college games. How they operate and the difference between the two.
For my money, I would take a game between student-athletes over a one played by millionaires.
I feel the innocence of the college game makes it the better spectator sport. Sure you will have corruption with some of the kids, agents and money grabbers lurking in the background, but that happens only to a limited number of college kids. For the most part, the superstar on a college program may have someone with malice intension giving them direction, but, for the most part, the other 4 on the floor and all those coming off the bench are playing for the pure love of the sport, and a free education.
In the pros you have businessmen. These people are individual corporations. The league MINIMUM for a rookie this year is over $450,000. Which means if you have never played an NBA game and make a roster, you are guaranteed nearly a half a million dollars to suit up and ride the pine.
So let's take a look at the typical last man off the bench who might fit this bill in both pros and college.
The last man off the bench in college is generally a walk-on, or former walk-on now on scholarship. When they get in the crowd is behind them, chanting their name (think Rudy) and their teammates do whatever they can to get the kid an open shot.
Conversely in the pros, the last man off the bench is fighting to stay in the league. If they are a rookie, making nearly half a million dollars, they know they need stats to keep them on the payroll. Consequently when they do get into the game, generally during blowouts, they are more likely to do things to get in the scorebook. Jacking shots and being selfish. Their teammates are generally in the same boat as them, and are also looking to jack shots, get in the books and keep their jobs.
NBA apologists like ESPN's Colin Cowherd will say that the athleticism, speed and size of the NBA makes it a better sell than the college version. And he, and others who make this argument, are right. The NBA is bigger, faster and more athletic. But that doesn't make it better... does it?
To quote my buddy Gus in the midst of the Nuggets-Grizzlies game, "In college DeMarre would regularly be the tallest guy on the court." Now the 6-8, 225 pounder is playing small forward and matching up against the first week NBA MVP in Carmelo Anthony.
So what? Does the JYD's reduced size make him less of a player? Or make that brand of hoops any better? I don't see how you can argue that.
If proportionally everyone is taller in the NBA than college, what is the difference? In college you might have a 6-8 center and 6-0 guard. In pros it will be a 6-4 guard and 7-0 center. Proportions remain the same. No advantage.
On Sunday you could also look across the bench at fellow rookie, and former North Carolina Tar Heel, Denver Nugget Ty Lawson and compare speed.
Last year Lawson was sprinting up and down the floor, leading Carolina to the national championship. This year he is one of the fastest guys on the court, but not necessarily the fastest guy out there. Defensive players are getting back and can now front him.
Does this make it better? For my money, I would like to see a guy sprint down the floor and go in for a two handed jam, than to see him pull up at the free throw line and attempt a shot. And for those claiming this makes the NBA better, besides the excitement of a dunk, if it is your team, which would you rather have your guy shoot? A high percentage lay-up/dunk with a possibility of an And One or a pull up 15 footer?
And as for excitement. What is better? March Madness or the NBA playoffs?
Another way to ask this question, three weeks of knock-out basketball or a playoff series that takes three weeks to complete.
What do you think?
And while this argument is based solely that college is better, that doesn't discredit the NBA. It is still FANtastic, but in comparing the 2, it sink to the bottom.
As an aside, if you are interested in following the Denver Nuggets, check out our SB Nation friends over at Denver Stiffs. They put on a good show.