Why are Americans so in love with sports? Because of the tense, perfectly executed momen..."/> Why are Americans so in love with sports? Because of the tense, perfectly executed momen..."/>

The Most Exciting Play in the NBA–Free Agency


Why are Americans so in love with sports? Because of the tense, perfectly executed moments of a game which take our breath away—and make the difference in a season.

From this year, Steven Hauska’s missed field goal or Brady’s pass sailing inches over Wes Welker’s straining finger tips come to mind. And David Freese’s extra inning home run to win Game 6 of the World Series. And Dustin Brown’s hit against Michal Rozsival immediately preceding Penner’s Campbell Cup clinching overtime goal.

But in the NBA, these season defining plays don’t stand out to me. The most exciting part of the season is the storylines, and never is that more true than during free agency. Sure Griffin had amazing dunk highlights, and Lebron dominated in Game 6 at Boston, but they’re not iconic.

Besides Dwight Howard who is an infuriating attention seeking character to deal with, the most compelling storylines are who is going to be dealt where. The reason is that’s where the championship is won, not on the court.

Lebron is one of the best players ever, but Pat Riley won the NBA championship for the Heat, not Lebron, when he landed the deal for the superstar.

The problem with NBA games is that they have become stale and predictable. The 24 second shot clock was designed to keep one team from wasting time, speed up the game, and ensure the better team won. Other than the last 4 minutes of games and on all Lakers possessions the shot clock is virtually irrelevant. It fails to make the game more exciting, but rather facilitates the game being played at a tempo that is monotonous, like déjà vu every 24 seconds. “Didn’t I just see Kobe jack up a 3?”

Many fans prefer college basketball not because it’s better, because the players obviously aren’t. But greatness doesn’t come as easily to them, which means players look like they are trying harder regardless of actual effort level.

Truly though the offseason is where the NBA season is won more so than lost. I want to know where players are dealt, because that determines who will win before any of the monotonous 82 games + playoffs begin. That is why there is excitement.

Even during the regular season, the question “will Miami be able to beat Boston” is a more compelling storyline usually than the game itself. Its just about 48 minutes of plays that all run together in your head (which is a complaint many Americans would have about 90 minutes of soccer as well), plus some foul shots or with any luck a buzzer beater.

But the NBA sells celebrity. It sells hype. It sells the hope and possibility that one team of celebrities and hype can or cannot beat another team with or without celebrity or hype. The celebrity is a result of playing the game on stage, in full view of fans and media in person and on TV. And unfortunately there is too much hype for any of what transpires on the court to matter because the x’s and o’s of the game all meld together into a particularly boring NBA promo.

Perhaps the problem is we are all a bit too desensitized to the reality of a NBA game, since most of what Americans see are not games, but only the highlights from around the country. I am forgetting what it means to watch a basketball game, and expect all games to have the constant action and unexpectedness of a highlight.

This has been more of a complaint than constructive. But hopefully some solutions, practical or not, will become apparent.