Love it or leave it, the NBA playoffs are underway. In one of the few sports where most everybody makes the playoffs, the NBA has mastered the art of “milking” a second season out of fans and the television networks.
Many fans of basketball abstain from watching the NBA, or at least they say so. Yet everyone measures college teams and players against the yardstick of “can they make it in the pros?” How many times have we seen a player like Kansas’ Perry Ellis be disparaged by television announcers as “too short” or “too slow” or “too much a tweener” to make it in the pros. Yet players like Ellis and Buddy Hield of Oklahoma are All Americans in the college game, playing against the same players that the professional people draft based on “potential.” It doesn’t make much sense to me.
There is no question that professional basketball is a different squirrel than the college game. While I prefer the college game, I will admit that the NBA accumulates the best athletes in the world to play their brand of basketball. Their brand being quite different than the college game.
The knock against the NBA is that they don’t play defense, at least until the playoffs begin. While I think that was somewhat true in the past it isn’t true today. Sometimes the incredible offensive skills of some of these guys, like LeBron James and Stephen Curry, so overwhelm the defensive players that it makes it look like they aren’t playing defense!
The announcers that work NBA teams cause much of the feelings of disrespect that some fans have about NBA-style basketball. When they make statements like, “Hey, things are different now, these are the playoffs!”, or when a certain foul is called or not called and they say, “You’re just not going to get that call in the playoffs”, they are saying to us that yes, indeed, the playoffs are different, all of which detracts from the regular season.
Love it or hate it, our college game is being molded more and more by the professional game. Nobody does it better than the Atlantic Coast Conference. That conference sends the most players to the NBA-and by a wide margin. Of course it helps when North Carolina, Duke and Syracuse play in your league. Those three schools account for 42% of the players drafted to the NBA out of that conference in the last decade.
What about our Big 12? They trail the ACC, SEC and Pac-12 but lead all others including the Big Ten and Big East. No league is more lopsided than the Big 12. The Jayhawks have provided 29% of the draft picks from the Big 12 over the past decade. No wonder they are bearing down on their 13th consecutive Big 12 title!
Currently the Jayhawks have 19 former basketball players on NBA rosters. All of them are making serious money. Remember Kelly Oubre from last years’ team? Unless you are a real NBA fan you probably think he didn’t make it. He was picked 15th in the 2015 draft. At 19, he’s three years younger than anybody else on the Washington Wizard’s roster. He will make $1,920,240 this season and even more the next two years.
Oubre’s story is only one of nineteen for former Kansas players. Joel Embiid, who has missed two straight seasons and has never played in an NBA game will make $4,626,960. There are seventeen more stories like that and those are just former Jayhawks.
So, the next time you hear some fan yell “they don’t play any defense.” Just think, “maybe they aren’t paid to”!
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