Jake Keeley

In the midst of one of the most historic and memorable stretches in the history of the NBA, there seems to continually be a feeling of unhappiness from, shall I say, one of the less fortunate sports leagues. No matter what the NBA does, there will undoubtedly be some sucker punches thrown from fans the NHL. Whether LeBron James flops to get a call, Paul Pierce gets wheeled off the court in a chair despite having a shoulder injury, or most recently, the NBA institutes a social media policy forcing teams on Twitter to play nice with each other, supporters of the NHL are saying something. So what is it that gets people so riled up that they can’t be happy for the successes that basketball is incurring right now?

Clearly there is some sort of inferiority complex. Hockey has never, and likely will never be more popular than the NBA, and being that they occupy the same seasons, fans just can’t stand that. Hockey fans continue to wonder how basketball fans can watch the NBA with all of those selfish players and the lack of defense being played. Despite the obvious inaccuracies, which we basketball fans are tired of disproving at this point, the fact of the matter is that people want to see the best of the best competing, and that is what the NBA is. 

Thinking about it another way, two college basketball players not good enough to make the NBA, Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates, decided to play football instead of basketball and wound up being two of the best tight ends ever, with the latter never playing a down of football in college. Now, imagine if it was LeBron James lined up out there. Simply put, the talent level, partly due in part to the type of athletes the game prioritizes, as well as the small roster sizes, ultimately select for the best athletes out there. Comparing this with hockey, as much as everyone loved the ‘grind line’, nobody really wants to go to a game to watch Kirk Maltby kill a penalty.

However, what hockey can’t match in talent, it far surpasses basketball in toughness. Basically that’s all I can write about this point. Toughness clearly doesn’t do much for people because if that’s all they cared about then everyone would be about hockey. Sure, people got upset when, in the NBA Finals of all places, LeBron James was carried off the court because he had cramps. In fact, the hockey fans were all over it, it was almost a celebratory event for them, they couldn’t post enough memes. But then something happened, game 2, and everyone that watched LeBron get carried off in game 1 tuned right back in, because they didn’t care. The NHL has recently realized that skill, along with a little toughness, is why people enjoy their game. As a result, they are continually trying to open the ice up to put that skill on display.

You don’t have to look very far to see the attention that the NBA is generating. Even Jurassic Park in Toronto is buzzing. But first, credit must be given to the NBA for putting their best foot forward and limiting the amount of contact allowed, in order for their most exciting players to flourish. Maybe with the emphasis on skill in the NHL we will see something similar. Or perhaps we’ll miss it because we were watching an NBA game instead.