Why Do NBA Fans Still Underrate Defense?

Josh BAnalyst IMay 13, 2009

Two quick questions for all NBA fans: Should Allen Iverson be a Hall of Famer? Should Dennis Rodman be a Hall of Famer?

Well, 99 out of 100 NBA fans would decisively answer "yes" then "no", in that order. How much more sure are you that Allen Iverson should be a Hall of Famer? Is there an obvious difference in greatness?

This is not an article meant to attack Iverson or praise Rodman, but it's meant to cite a trend in NBA fans and the media.

Any NBA fan who knows Iverson is great is completely aware that he is one of the greatest scorers of all time. He has led the league in points per game four times, and he is fifth all-time in points per game, but he is an awful defender.

Rodman is a different kind of player. He led the league in rebounding six times, made seven first All-NBA teams, and he won five championships. He wasn't the go-to guy for any of those titles by any means, but he did hold them. What held him back from greatness was his offense. He only scored in double-figures one season during his career.

Clearly, Iverson is one of the greatest offensive players ever and Rodman is one of the greatest defensive players ever. But in today's NBA, Iverson is obviously considered the superior player. Even I have trouble putting Rodman in the same class as Iverson.

They say defense wins championships, but players who are only great at defense aren't considered great players. This is a trend that has occurred throughout NBA history for various reasons.They do all of the hard work, and recieve none of the glory. By the same token, they aren't nailed by the media if they fail.

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1. The Stats

When you look at a player's numbers, the first place you probably look is his points, then rebounds, and finally assists. You might look at their field goal percentage and perhaps their steals and blocks.

There simply aren't any good mainstream statistics for defense. A player can easily accumulate steals by guarding over-aggressively or only guarding the passing lanes. A player can accumulate blocks just from not getting fouls called on them.

This isn't always true. Ron Artest and Dwight Howard are both great defenders, however, this fact is misleading for the Iversons and the Marcus Cambys out there.

John Hollinger's Player Efficiency Rating sometimes shows good defense. For instance, it regards Shane Battier as one of the best in the league. But it can also mislead in telling you that Leon Powe is a top 20 player.

The only way you can really judge defensive ability is by watching basketball.

2. The Media

It's impossible for a highlight reel to be objective. What is truly a highlight is the network's decision.

Check out this YouTube video to see SportsCenter's Top 10 from Feb. 3.

The basketball plays consist of a Randy Foye block on Danny Granger, a reverse layup from someone on Mississippi State, a LeBron James block on Chris Bosh, a Mo Williams alley-oop to James, a Tony Allen dunk, a Tracy McGrady dunk, and a Ray Allen three-pointer.

The two plays on defense were thought of as highlights because those plays had a smaller player blocking the shot of a bigger player.

Four of those plays were dunks. At most, a dunk is a tempo changer and two points, but ESPN has highlighted them as the best plays.

The blocks and the dunks are highlighted because they're visually appealing, not because they are more affective than the other plays.

3. What You Like To Watch

The media knows what you like to watch and they have given that to you in highlights.

NBA fans aren't aroused by a 24-second violation on the team they are rooting against, but they love the excitement of fastbreaks and crossovers. A fan's mind eventually associates entertainment with effectiveness.

For example, the Spurs are known as a boring team. However, I do not think their fans think championships are very boring.

No NBA fan would say that they think offense is more important than defense, but deep down they truly want the offense. The NBA should be loved for its entertainment value.

I can't tell you what to find entertaining, but have respect for the great defenders of the NBA. Put Battier in the same sentence as Tracy McGrady. Remember the Spurs like you would the high-tempo Lakers of the '80s.

Defense is half the game and NBA fans, including myself, need to realize that it's still underrated.