NBA v. NFL
In past couple of months both the NBA and NFL have dominated headlines. Both had lockouts this summer, although the NBA is still on-going and may be at risk for losing part of a season a la 1999 or the entire thing like the NHL in 2004. Both came off fantastic seasons with Dallas beating the Heatles, and Green Bay winning the Lombardi Trophy. To most Americans when asked which league is better, I would bet money a majority would say the NFL without much thought. Such a question posed to me isn’t so easily answered. These are my favorite leagues(not including college) to watch; which will be apparent by the numerous amount of blogs I write on them. To me there is nothing better than watching prime time Thursday TNT basketball or Sunday football. I decided to break down each aspect and truly get to the bottom of which league, IN MY OPINION, is the better one.
Battle of the Commisioners
David Stern took over the NBA in the late 70s-early 80s right in time for Magic Johnson and Larry Bird to fall in his lap. The league under Larry O’Brien was struggling financially. Viewers were tired of diva players with coke problems that were running rampantly throughout the league. Fans could not relate to the NBA’s players or even its superstar player, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, as he usually wanted nothing to do with the public or the media. David took what was a struggling league and turned it into what eventually became a global icon. Was he lucky that Magic, Larry, and Michael fell into his lap (of course!), but nobody had the insight to market their players like Stern did. No one at that time or currently knew how to maximize the marketing potential of their stars better than David Stern. Look at how Michael Jordan is still one of the most recognizable and still most popular athletes of all time. When issues arised Stern was proactive. Take for instance, Houston in ‘83 and ‘84 tanking two years in a row to get Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson. Stern came up with the weighted lottery system for the top three picks where the worst team had the best odds at 25 percent ^1. He seems to be one of the few that has made his game extremely popular throughout the world and into the gold mine we call China, a marketer’s wet dream. Although NBA enthusiasts might call this a mistake since they ruin the All-Star ballot^2. Meanwhile Roger Goodell has taken over for Paul Tagliabue, who made the NFL into the real American pastime of the new decade. In Goodell’s couple years as commish he has taken over issues such as player safety by penalizing players for unnecessary illegal hits in order to protect QB, RB, and WRs; you know the people fans pay money to come see. He has also increased the punishment for players with off the field issues, due to the dozens of off field incidents that occured when he first took over. Many players have recently voiced their opinions on ESPN stating they did not like him^3. Anyway Rodger Goodell avoided missing any real football games this off season by reaching a compromise of how to split the $9 billion surplus, let me repeat that. The $9 billion revenue of your money, which you received no discount on anything for enduring such lawyer buffoonery this summer.
Edge NBA(+1 point)
Clash of the Owners
Sorry Michael Jordan, but the key to a successful franchise is to always start with stable ownership. The franchises that win and win on a consistent basis have an owner that knows how to build the type of team he envisions. This owner holds his employees accountable for making such visions come true. For the sake of the blog, though we are talking about entertaining me, there isn’t a kookier bunch of owners than the ones in the NBA. Mark Cuban is the ideal owner, he is someone who wants to be part of the game and leave an imprint. You can tell he sees the NBA in the prism of a fan, I mean what other owner consistently sits court side and runs up to refs to complain about a petty call; all sports fans wish they could do that without being escorted from the building. What other owner has been able to be part of an awesome reality show in Shark Tank, danced with the stars, and a regular in the past two seasons of Entourage. There is none. For entertainment and winning purposes, Mark Cuban is the ideal owner. He is spawning a new breed of owners in the NBA, I mean look no further than Dan Gilbert who is so passionate about his franchise he wrote a pretty hateful email when Lebron James walked out on Cleveland. Could you see any of the NFL owners doing that? Hell even the new Pistons owner Tom Gores had a little too much to drink at a Pistons game. Jerry Buss gave Magic Johnson a 25 year 25 million dollar contract, partly because he just loved to party with Magic so much; and probably because showing his connection to Magic got him laid even more. The NFL has Jerry Jones one of the top executives who actually knows what he is doing on the field. When Jerry is not happy heads role, and he isn’t afraid to let the media know he is dissatisfied. Not only that, but he has built the greatest stadium in all of sports; $1billion, that is more dough than some nations can even accumulate. Jerry can show his lighter side too of course, kind of… Closest thing we have to a crazy moment from NFL owners was Titans owner Bud Adams flipping the bird. Jim Irsay has recently gone on a tweeting spree; someone please take away his twitter capabilities I can not stand the thought of a 60-year-old man sounding like a 10 year old girl, check out his twitter page if you don’t believe me. I can name almost every NBA owner because, they in one way or another seem to have a quirky personality. I can’t name more than a handful of NFL owners.
Edge: NBA(+1 point)
Confrontation of Coaches
It’s always been known the coaches are leaders of the team. Their team should embody the values and principles that he instills. A great coach should make be able to maximize his talent and make the collective sum better than the individual parts. The only problem is in the NBA this has no bearing whatsoever. In fact coaches are a dime a dozen^4. The problem in the NBA is only a handful of coaches truly matter and it isn’t because of their X’s and O’s knowledge, instead it was the fact they mastered the art of balancing egos. Only Phil Jackson^5, Pat Riley, Chuck Daily, Greg Poppovich, Red Auerbach^6, and Larry Brown actually made their teams better by being on the bench. On the other hand, the NFL has built numerous dynasties around coaches. The coach and the system he made are integral to success. When a part broke down it could be substituted by another and still function relatively well, which is crucial in football due to the numerous injuries. Coaches mattered look at the names Gibbs, Walsh, The Big Tuna, Belchick, Lombardi, Noll, and Ditka. Hell Walsh had two QB dynasties under Montana and Young, which proves in football its the system not just the talent that wins and wins consistently. Plus who doesn’t love laughing at Rex Ryan run his mouth nowadays…
Edge NFL(+1 point)
Sports need a major rivalry without it there is no marquee game to draw you in. The NBA at its zenith had numerous rivalries where teams hated each other. The best was of course Lakers vs. Celtics, which had developed back in the day of Jerry West and Bill Russell. It only intensified after a great NCAA tourney finals between Magic and Bird; two rivals who measure their greatness against one another. Magic and Bird met three times in the finals. Along with those in the 80’s 90s the East was stacked with numerous great rivalries between Celtics-Pistons, Pistons-Bulls, Bulls-Knicks, Pacers-Knicks, Kings-Lakers, Bulls-Heat and Spreewell-Carlisimo. In recent years we have had Shaq v. Kobe every Christmas and what appears to be the development of a Mavs vs. Heat rivalry. The greatest rivalry in the NFL is claimed to be Bears v. Packers. To be honest when they come on tv it doesn’t register any different from any other divisional rivalry in the NFL. The only real rivalry in recent memory has been Peyton v. Brady. To be honest Brady has owned Peyton in playoff victories against each other and in total championships. At the end of the day Peyton can have all those records because they are meaningless in the debate of greatness when you can’t compete in total ring count. But you also have to account all the current rivalries in the NFC East. Cowboys fans hate the Eagles, Redskins, and Giants fan. Hell remember the Snickers commercials. “Hey Strahan how bout dem Cowboys!” Then Strahan tackles the fan. Strahan exemplifies the hate between everyone in the division. We don’t even have to mention how Rex Ryan is renewing the rivalries between Jets/Giants/Pats.
Edge NFL(+2 point)
Playoffs!? Playoffs!? We’re talking about Playoffs!?
The reason the regular season is played. We are comparing best of seven series over two to three months in the NBA to one and done in the NFL, in about a month. The playoffs in general are to crown the best team, but when you play one and dones it allows for wild cards to make runs(Champions 2010-11 Packers, 07-08 Giants and four other teams). Meanwhile in the NBA the format generally follows a predictable playoffs until the Conference Finals, due to the underdog team having to win four games; exception ‘86 Rockets, ‘99 Knicks, ‘94 nuggets, ‘07 Warriors, ‘11 Grizzlies. Of those teams only the Knicks and Rockets went farther than one round, case in point upsets are rare in the NBA and Cinderellas going to the finals are nearly impossible the way the format is set up. What makes sports fun is seeing the unfathomable, we want to see the ‘08 Giants hand the 18-0 Patriots a loss on the biggest stage. By far one of the best Super Bowls ever, even though all the excitement was in the 4th quarter. On top of that the Superbowl is a worldwide spectacle; corporations save up money to advertise. Other networks plan major events during half time to steal some viewers for a brief period before the game starts again. An NBA game seven in the finals could never come close to that. Give me the one and done.
Edge NFL(+2 points)
I am going to make this one simple any time you have Charles Barkley on your show like TNT does the hilarity just doesn’t stop. E.J., Kenny and C-Webb intermingle well and keep it informative and hilarious all at the same time. NFL pre game shows have become a celebrity spectacle of how many famous ex-NFL players/coaches can we cram into at the table until Bill Cowher’s chin pokes one of their eyes out. For every great analyst like Steve Young you have one knuckle head in Emmitt Smith or a Shannon Sharpe who looks and talks like a horse.
Edge NBA(.5 pts)
Such a hard category, I keep looking at more and more pictures from both sides and keep going back and forth. The thing is NFL cheerleaders have always existed and been a part of the game for God knows how long; hell they made a porno about a girl who will do anything to become a Cowboy Cheerleader. In the NBA it is a recent phenomena that started somewhere in the 80s with the Laker Girls. Along with the fact there is more downtime in football to observe the cheerleaders.
Edge NFL(.5 pts)
The NFL refs seem to do an extremely good job compared to the NBA refs in getting the calls right. Whether its the fact they only have to pay attention for 10 seconds of actual play with 20 seconds of nothing between plays may help. The difficulty in reffing NBA games is there is constant fast paced motion with only 3 refs to monitor 10 guys. Oh yea there was also a guy named Tim Donaghy. Not to mention the extreme favoritism shown to the superstars.
All Star Game
Seeing as most NFLers don’t even want to participate in the game, shows its meaningless in performance, but prestigious in honor. It’s hard not to blame them since football, no matter in what type of game can lead to injury, which could affect future earnings. Meanwhile the NBA turns it into a spectacle. You have the Slam Dunk Contest which recently has become more of an acting spectacle than you know, an actual dunk contest, thanks Dwight Howard. Other events like the player skills challenge, and the 3pt contest. Even though the game has no meaning come 4th quarter the player egos won’t let them lose. All in, the NBA makes the best watchable All-Star weekend.
Edge NBA(+.5 points)
Play on Players
The main attraction, why the fans hand over the money to millionaire owners. What I love about the NBA is that you feel a connection with the players. You can tell when they are mad, ecstatic or pissed-off at the refs. It’s all out in the open. They let their emotions out with facial expression and body language. The NBA offers the most recognizable athletes in U.S. sports due to the fact they are great marketing tools. Everything is transparent and visible to the fan’s eye rather than behind helmets and padding. Basketball I say is like human poetry when played properly there is an innate flow, rhythm and beauty. It’s continuous perpetual motion that allows for non-stop action and constant scoring. I don’t even have to mention the jaw dropping dunks and alley-oops these guys do. Plus the players know how to work the room whether it’s on or off the court. Who could resist Magic’s charm, the competitiveness of Jordan, the playfulness of Nash, the intensity of Garnett, the humor of Shaq or Charles or the wisdom of Russell. Lebron James made millions when people all over the world tuned in to watch “the Decision.” No NFL player could have such pull. Ron Artest caused a melee, admitted to doing drugs during his early career years and is in the process of changing his name to Metta World Peace. I haven’t even mentioned Dennis Rodman or Charles Barkley. How many little kids in the 90s loved Space Jam with Jordan. The players just posssess personalities that draw you in.
Meanwhile, the NFL is a man’s league. Who doesn’t love hits so hard it knocks the other player out; hits that make you curl up in a ball even though it wasn’t you taking the shot. The game planning of intricate defenses and offenses that few laymen can truly have a full grasp on. The punishment these guys must go through in order to score. A sport where it truly is a team dependent, rather than individual. If one link fails the entire chain is ruined. The NFL makes you channel your inner warrior. Who doesn’t love creative TD celebrations like the numerous Ocho Cinco has done in his years at Cinnci or Steve Smith in Carolina. The problem is the NFL cracks down on such moments making it more difficult for real player-fan connections. Although wide receivers can be divas, they also provide excitement to the game on and off the field. Although talking about T.O. over the years did get pretty annoying. The problem is that most NFL players are too straight laced and professional; not saying I have a real problem with this, but where is the entertainment in that. I don’t want to hear Brady compliment Manning. I want him to say something like “Of course I am the better QB I have three rings to his one. Look at my playoff records. Why is this even a debate!?” It’ll never happen. Like Bill Plaschke of the LA Times once said the “NFL” stands for the No Fun League. The NFL limits the kind of playful interactions they have on the field with fans as well as off, he explained. Outside of T.O. and Ocho Cinco the league really doesn’t have too many oddball characters. The beauty of the league is it doesn’t truly need it to be successful.
Edge NBA(+2 points)
NFL 6 - NBA 5
So there you have it, I confirmed the American public’s perception of the two sports. The NFL eeked out a 50 yard field goal to win the battle. Although I love the NBA, in recent years it has been lacking the intense rivalries and do or die playoff excitement that the NFL has. The NBA brings a kooky cast of characters that I love, but it needs some reworking. It needs to prevent player collaborations so that the small market teams like Cleveland, Sacramento, Indiana, Milwaukee, and Charlotte. These also need to be more efficient in the contracts doled out to players;shorter term and wiser spending. Along with incentives to stay with the team that drafted them. A problem the NFL never will encounter since even the small market teams are prosperous. All in all I still think the NBA is a great product as you can see above, but there is no denying the NFL its right as King of Sports^7
1. The worst team since 1985 has won the rights to the number one pick 5 times; this does not include Cleveland this year since it was actually the Clippers pick, acquired by trading Mo Williams for Baron Davis and 10 buckets of KFC, which he ate on the plane ride over before the physical.
2. In fact if the NBA did not take Jianlian Yi (last seasons stats 5.6 pts and 3.4 boards, scream all star to you?) name off the ballot he would probably have been an NBA all star every year since entering the league.
3. Well unfortunately for you Ray Edwards and James Harrison, he is not paid to be your friend, but rather to be your boss. Plus when did it start becoming a big deal that a commissioner was not liked by his players. Most Americans hate their boss isn’t that just the American way.
4. Every year at least five to seven teams fire their coach like clockwork. Ask Joe Dumars he is on his fifth coach in eight years. They use this as a way to get the fan interest back by blaming the previous coach.
5. People will say Phil was lucky to inherit Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, but ask Doug Collins and Rudy Tomjanivich just because you have superstars doesn’t mean you can guarantee rings. Michael Jordan had trouble trusting teammates and Kobe Bryant needed to satisfy an desire to be the next Michael Jordan, only Phil knew how to reach both.
6. No one was better at lighting up a stoogie and walking up and down the sidelines yelling at his players like Red. I think he only had 4 official plays he actually designed and let Cousy and Russell take care of the rest.
7. Until the rednecks take over and make NASCAR the King of Sports, god just shoot me now if that is the case…