Basketball More Like Hockey Than You Think

Bob DuffContributor IJune 12, 2008

I was going to write an in-depth article about how hockey is far superior to basketball based on certain things I have noticed of the two sports. Then I saw Game Four of the NBA Finals, and I realized that basketball is actually very similar hockey.

Now, most of you reading this might think, "Well duh, Bob. They both have to put a ball or a puck in a goal or a net," but it took me longer to realize the similarities.

I spent more than one year thinking that basketball was the most selfish sport with players like Kobe Bryant (after Shaquille O'Neal), Stephon "Starbury" Marbury, and Allen "The Answer" Iverson (when he was on the Sixers) who were all being whiny A-holes.

This was one of the reasons I watched more hockey than basketball. When I think about it now, the top goal-scorers in hockey are usually the only scorers on their team: like Ovechkin, Rick Nash, and Illya Kovalchuk. Only a few of the players like this are fronting a good team, and the majority of their teams suck.

All of the players I mentioned have to be great in order for their team to win because they are the scoring threats.

Devlis goalie Martin Brodeur and A.I. are the only ones in recent memory who had made the finals without much help from their team. They had to be phenomenal just to be in the playoffs.

Brodeur won a cup even though he had Patrick Elias and Scott Gomez in front of him. He was still the Devils' best player by far.

As for Iverson, he and his team just gave up in the Finals and made it a short series.

I did realize that there were some NBA teams that are team-oriented. The Suns, the Pistons, the Spurs, and the Celtics are a small list of squads in the league who play "team ball."

It makes sense since the Suns have Steve Nash, who is the most unselfish player in the game. The Pistons have Richard Hamiliton, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace, and Chauncey Billups. The Spurs have Manu Ginobli, Tim Duncan, and Tony Parker. The Celtics have Kevin Garnett, Paul "The Truth" Pierce and Ray "The Dude from 'He Got Game'" Allen.

When one of the superstars go down, it's OK, because these teams have other superstars to fill the void. As a result these teams have playoff success. Their games may be boring to watch at times (except the Suns with their high-octane offense), but the players don't care; they just win.

In hockey, you have to work as a team to score past the opposing defense and its goaltender. In basketball, you have to do more or less the same thing.

The difference is that, for example, Kobe Bryant can just run up without knowing where his teammates are and score. This is what he did when he didn't have a legit scorer, like Shaq or Gasol with him—it's weird putting Shaq and Pau in the same sentence like that. There is a reason that Gasol has that much of an impact on the Lakers.

This is why, in Game Four, I saw so many passes to not just Bryant, but to Gasol, Vujacic, Odom, and many more. They are working as a team to get a better look instead of shooting it themselves.

The Celtics did this, too (in the 2nd half); they kept passing when they were being defended well instead of shooting. This doesn't work all the time, like when they miss a shot or the guy doesn't follow team rules and shoots despite the existence of an open guy, like Sam Cassell.

I have always respected the toughness of hockey players. They go out to hockey games knowing that they will get hit pretty hard, and if they are passionate enough, they get in a fight. Hockey players often have blood on their face and still play.

It's sort of the same in basketball, but to a lesser extent. There are so many fouls and no-foul calls in a game that it takes a toll on a player's body.

Shaq is a perfect example of the effect this has day in and day out. He still gets fouled a lot. Yet, as he gets older, he takes contact more easily because his body can't take the amount of pressure that it is used to.

This is the one advantage hockey has that basketball doesn't, but now I have more respect for basketball players.

There are many more similarities between the two action-packed sports, but that would be too long of an article.

I know that teamwork is big, not just in hockey and basketball, but in baseball and football. I guess I notice teamwork more quickly in other sports than I do for basketball. It probably has to do with the fact that I haven't attended or watched nearly enough games of basketball to fully appreciate the intangibles.

I will still watch the Bruins game when there is a Celtics and Bruins game at the same time, but now I will also check the Celtics game.

By the way, I still think Kobe is an arrogant prick, but less than I used to.


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