This argument comes down to one thing: In the NBA, players play for the name on the back of the jersey; in college, the players play for the name on the front.
Too simple? Yes.
True? I think so.
Quality arguments can be made to point out the positives and negatives on whether the NBA or college basketball is superior. Even after this article, you will still have a preference, and that is good. Yet I believe that a vast majority of sports lovers assume that the NBA is “better” because the talent is stronger and the players are more mature—last point is debatable.
One disclaimer: Everything in the NBA is about money, and a good portion of college ball is as well, but the NCAA can’t admit that. With that said, I will not need to breakdown the “Why do they play?” because we all know.
Let’s break it down by certain factors. I will decide the winner of those categories, and the side with the most “points” wins.
NBA—Every team in the NBA has at least three different jerseys (if you are the LeBrons, you have 17). The jerseys range from classics with the Lakers and Celtics, to the WNBA-ish with the Timberwolves and the Kings. And you will always know the players because the names are always on the back.
When the average fan purchases, a jersey they are usually supporting the individual, not the team.
College—The college jerseys are not as visually creative and rarely do you have “throw back night,” but I have not seen a jersey that makes me wonder if they accidentally put on the girls team jerseys. Certain schools will never put the names on the back, and some have removed the players name to drive the point home that we are one team—not just players.
When the average fan (or alumni) purchases a jersey, they are usually supporting the school, not the individual.
Also, you can just buy a jersey with any number and unless the player is incredible and the number is retired, you might be able to use it again and again.
Winner = Tie, both are sweet.
NBA—The NBA is full of teams with new stadiums that are shiny, glitzy, and in HD. Now, name two famous/historic stadium? Madison Square Garden, and, huh, wait, there has to be at least one more…nope. That’s it.
College – Unlike the pros, the undergrads study in historic buildings. Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Hoosier Dome, Williams Arena (Minnesota), etc. And there are many more.
So this comes down to personal preference. Do you like the old or new?
Winner = College. I think everyone needs a reminder of those who have been there before.
NBA—They have many costume changes and get to perform a ton, and might even get to be on a calendar or two. The downside is that there are probably more implants in the NBA than in college.
College—The cheerleaders are typically less “dancy,” and there is more traditional cheer leading. Sometimes co-ed, so pyramids and flips are frequent. But my wife thinks it is weird—and a little creepy—that the fans are gawking at teenagers. Good point.
Winner = NBA. At least they get paid, and they are legal.
NBA—Six fouls, 48 minutes, 24 second shot clock, eight seconds to get over half court.
The rules in the NBA lean towards the one-on-one game. The introduction of the “zone” has made it better.
College—Five fouls, 40 minutes, 35 second shot clock, 10 seconds to get over half court.
The college game leans towards team play and strategy.
If the college game would increase the foul limit to six and increase minutes, this would not be a contest. But they have yet to do it.
Winner = NBA. Sometimes five fouls just isn't enough.
NBA—I am not even going to factor the case of a certain ref named Tim into this equation; that would be unfair. Some experts say that refs control the games in the NBA more than any other element, and can then pick a winner and it becomes obvious in the way they call the game.
The league has been calling touch fouls on anyone in the area of their stars for years, but now, anyone can get ticky-tack fouls on their way to the basket and on the perimeter. Prime example—hand checks.
College—Every time a player steps on the court, they have to be ready to adjust to whomever calls the game. The same is true in the NBA, but I think the refs are a little more consistent. Plus, the way the game is called usually allows the players to play a little more, which is why we watch.
Winner = College. Give the players a chance to play.
NBA—The coaches on certain teams are more high school counselor than NBA coach. Teams are made up of grown men who are trying to make a living and have egos as big—or bigger than most of their second homes.
In the association, unless you are a top-tier coach, you are more expendable than the worst players on their teams. Coaches rarely get credit for wins, but always get the blame for loses.
Breaking into the ranks of head coach is more difficult in the NBA than any other sport, but once you are in the coaching carousal, even if you are fired, you stay on the ride.
College—Coaches are the face of the program. And everyone is very aware of that. Some would say that coaches in college have bigger egos and need to be the center of attention than their counterparts in the league.
A college coach's duties are pretty year round and always changing with the different roster that appears each season. You have recruiting and players leaving early, which means the ability to adjust on the fly is very important.
There is a better chance for coaches to get their “break” and land a good job.
Winner = NBA. Longer season, but recruiting is not in the job description. And you don’t have to deal with alumni.
NBA—One could swear that the mute button is on until halfway through the fourth quarter.
College—The stadiums are always full with students and alumni. They sing their school songs and go nuts even at 11 a.m.
Winner = College. This really wasn’t a contest—the NBA didn’t stand a chance.
Style of Play
NBA—The NBA has long been a league that allows for individuals to showcase their ability to beat defenders one-on-one. The idea of team defense is all about weak side help, doubling the post and a little zone. The NBA is quicker at times, but comes down to players making plays in crucial, end-of-game situations.
College—Each squad has to establish their own style and the ability of that team to dominate tempo. Each possession means more because there's fewer throughout the game. There are more swings in the success of the team and the crowd can really affect how teams play.
Winner = NBA. Systems are good, but players should decide games. And in the NBA they do, if the refs let them.
NBA—Finally. I always feel that way. Getting through the regular season can be like getting teeth pulled, but the playoffs are magical (see Bulls vs. Celtics). Many feel the playoffs are too long, the seeding needs to get reworked and that good teams are left out. But that last point happens in every sport.
College—There are upsets and underdogs making runs deep into the tournament, players can take their lead their team over better teams and make names for themselves. The only issue is that many times really good get left out on selection Sunday.
Winner = College. From the brackets to watching the games online at work, every game matters.
Acquisition of Players
NBA—The NBA draft is fun to watch. It is short and you usually have a good idea of who is going where.
Free agency is a toss-up. It can help a team rebuild really fast (the Spurs are experts at this), but it also decreases the amount of players that stick with teams their whole careers. Even all stars Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter have played for at least two different teams (T-Mac has played for three, the Raptors, Magic and Rockets).
College—Recruiting is interesting to follow and you can keep busy all year round. With coaching changes and kids changing their minds, it is a very fluid situation.
I understand the “sit-out-a-year” rule when you transfer from one D1 school to another, but think it should be changed if their is a coaching change or family hardship.
Winner = College. Money is not involved, at least I hope not. Oh wait.
I think I have covered the majority of important issues that make each game unique unto itself. Even after this extremely logical argument, there will be some that will disagree, and that is OK. Because you are wrong, or least “less-right.”
Winner = College 6 - NBA 4.