Of all the pro sports, the NBA has the strangest relationship with its college game. It has neither football’s symbiosis nor baseball’s integration. Every fall and winter weekend football fans can gorge themselves with games, while baseball fans have all summer to track prospects. Unfortunately, basketball fans are torn between college and the pros. And once March comes, the NBA’s competitive deficiencies are exposed.
Unlike the NBA playoffs, the NCAA Tournament is defined by drama: games decided in the final seconds, upsets, and Cinderella stories. Moreover, the uncertainty couples with betting has the powerful effect of attracting casual fans in droves. Doubters need only Google “March Madness” and “office productivity” to see the investment casual fans make in the Big Dance.
By contrast, the NBA is boring. An 82-game regular season ends with a playoff chase between .500 teams for the seventh and eighth slots. The early playoff rounds are little more than exercises in futility where the top teams squash the bottom ones. The participants in the conference and NBA finals were likely identified in October as the title contenders. And, the best hope bad or mediocre teams have to reach the upper echelon is drafting players who develop into hall of famers. For many NBA squads, wait until next year really means next decade.