The NBA: Truly a Make-Or-Miss League

Brad Frank@brfrank9Correspondent IJune 15, 2009

HOUSTON - APRIL 23:  Head coach Jeff Van Gundy of the Houston Rockets sets his team against the Los Angeles Lakers during Game three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2004 NBA Playoffs on April 22, 2004 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.   (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

ESPN/ABC NBA announcer Jeff Van Gundy sometimes says that the NBA is a "make-or-miss" league. What he means is that teams essentially win or lose games by making or missing shots, despite all of the in-game strategies teams employ.

But during the "rebirth" of the NBA (post-championship Jordan era), a closer look reveals more misses (bad) than makes (good) when examining nearly every aspect of the league, except how well teams shoot the ball.

Let's begin with the Tim Donaghy betting scandal, a clear miss.

A report surfaced in July 2007, revealing allegations against Donaghy, a 13-year NBA official, in regard to bets he made on games he officiated.

Commissioner David Stern insisted publicly that Donaghy's actions were an isolated incident and that Donaghy was merely a "rogue official." The league has had officiating issues ever since, not with gambling but with efficiency and accountability.

Fans have grown weary of "superstar treatment.” 

This occurs when the NBA's best players receive favorable calls so that they may retain that status in the league. Recipients of such treatment include Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade, among a few others. These players barrel into the paint, bouncing off opposing defenders, and expect a foul to be called for them.

Superstar treatment is just one of the many issues fans have with current NBA officials, some of who seem to have personal vendettas with certain players and teams (i.e. Joey Crawford vs. Tim Duncan, Danny Crawford vs. the Mavericks).

Another complaint contests that officials are simply too old.

Officials need to make split-second decisions on the same court as the best athletes in the world in a game's most crucial moments.  Yet, most referees in the league are far older than its players.

Then there's the issue of flopping. Players have made it habitual to exaggerate their movements in order to create the illusion of contact or to sell the contact's severity as worse than it actually is. Unfortunately, the officials are buying into this.

Instant replays of flopping has rendered officials' work as deplorable. (Understandably, however, the officials don't have the benefit of judging each play with slow-motion capability.)

Another problem is with the flagrant foul system.

It's not uniform across the league, partly because each official calls games differently, but mainly because quantifying the severity of fouls is difficult.

For all of the above reasons, the NBA game has become a clear miss in terms of officiating.

For one last miss, let's review the NBA's "One-and-Done" rule.

Unfortunately, this rule stunts the growth of the game of basketball from the high school level to the NBA. High school juniors and seniors are now deciding to play in Europe instead of going to college in an attempt to get paid for playing basketball.

Some have even skipped finishing high school, leaving without their diploma.

College programs are at a disadvantage because they cannot build programs upon a solid core of incoming freshmen. The freshmen whom teams can build programs around leave for the NBA.

As a result, the quality of college teams is becoming worse.  More and more young players remain in school for only a short time while less talented players stay, leaving the college game without many veteran superstars.

This rule hurts the NBA because it's a feeble attempt to say to high school students, "We think college is important, so please go. But just for one year, then we'll take you."

The NBA policy should either convey that college is not important or all-important. The rule should be: Players can enter the NBA Draft right after high school, after they complete three years of college, or after they obtain a degree.

Now for a quick short-list of “makes” for the NBA. 

The semicircular line or restricted area has had an ultimately positive affect on the NBA game.

Although it creates more opportunities for players to complain about a block/charge call near that area, the semicircle decreases the chance of injury, allows for more offensive efficiency, and provides better opportunities for fast-break success.

The area essentially eliminates charge calls under the rim. Slashers are better able to finish at the rim without being penalized for the inability to change direction mid-flight to avoid a charge call.

The new dress code is also a plus because it cleans up the NBA's "hip-hop" image.

Players now look like they're going to work rather than a concert or party. The image the league conveys is hugely important because the NBA, more than any other league, is a first impression. Fans either hate it or love it.  

The NBA has also excelled with its All-Star festivities in the past few years, thanks to the dunk contest. The NBA now has the most entertaining All-Star festivities of any professional sports league.

Finally, as calculated as it is, and as forced upon the players as it is, the NBA Cares program is a great measure for the league.  It brings goodwill and a lot of joy to communities, particularly to the youth of this country. 

Like all professionals leagues, the NBA has its shortfalls. The degree to which fans commit to the league depends on how much the positives outweigh the negatives.

Truly a make-or-miss league, the NBA is either hated or loved. True fans ignore the bad. Skeptics can't find anything right. Me? I love it.

Stay steady. And stay with the NBA. Even with its “misses,” it has some great things to offer.


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