Basketball Sucks.

June 6, 2009 § 33 Comments

Boy it’s been a fast month.  So much nothing to do that I don’t know what to (not) do with myself.

So I picked up more TV.  I’ve been sifting through the straggling few episodes of South Park that I hadn’t seen yet, I picked up a trial membership to Netflix, and I’ve had the pleasure of following the NHL playoffs to a far greater extent – I hear the Stanley Cup this year has its highest TV ratings since about 2002, and is quickly closing in on Pre-Season Women’s Softball as the second-least thing watched on television.

But on the other side of the coin, I’ve been plodding along with the NBA playoffs, too.  And this sport I’ll never understand.  I could easily argue that the entire game is a wash besides the last two minutes – which will inevitably last 10 or 15 times that long (the final two minutes of this game lasts 9 minutes, without commercial interruption).  But I’d like to take the opportunity to dive a little deeper.

Here’s my three-pronged strategy to win at basketball:

1. Strategically pause the game

T should stand for Terrible wasTe of Time

T should stand for wasTe of Time

There’s two minutes left on the game clock, and your team is down by double digits (and, of course, Reggie Miller isn’t on your roster).  You’re going to need more time than that to catch up.  What’s a coach to do?  Just pause the game, repeatedly.  Each team is allotted 6 (or 7?) timeouts to use over the course of the game (and extras for overtime, too, when you invariably run out).  How frustrating is that for me, the non-die-hard fan?  Imagine playing Madden, or any non-basketball sports video game, and just as you’re about to win, the other guy pauses it six times to tweak and fine-tune his starting lineup.  The hell?! If you’d just use a clock like a normal person, the match would be over and the team that played the better game wins.  60 seconds left in the game should mean just that.

Why should basketball need 6+ timeouts per game?  Football only has three.  Hockey only has one for the whole game.  Soccer doesn’t have timeouts – it has halftime.  Basketball shouldn’t need any timeouts.  Among all the major sports, basketball is the only one where the coach is close enough to the players that he can bark orders while play is going.  Every other sport manages to get along fine without having to incessantly hit the Start button to make substitutions.

And even still, teams routinely run out of timeouts at the end of the game.

What’s more –  for reasons I completely fail to understand (and have no hopes of ever grasping), sometimes when you call a timeout, your team gets to pass the ball inbounds from halfway up the court.  So if the other team sinks what should be a game-winning shot, you’re allowed to set your team up within reasonable range of the basket to make what should be an impossible shot – simply because you’ve called timeout.  There’s no way this rule can be founded in our common understanding of logic.

2. Break the rules on purpose

This is...encouraged?

This is...encouraged?

What’s that?  Pause button broken?  You’ve run out of timeouts, you say?  Not to worry.  You can still slow the clock down further by simply breaking the rules of the game on purpose.  Of course, your standard basketball fan will refer to this as “intentional fouls.”

Purportedly, the fouling system in the NBA was set up to ensure a level playing field and provide players with a fair opportunity to play.  Smack a guy in the arm while he’s shooting, and it’s going to be awful hard for him to make the shot.  So he gets free throws.  Seems to make sense – so let’s make it complicated!

In the NBA rulebook, after your team commits X fouls in a game, the system switches from awarding one free shot and a bonus free shot for making the first one to simply awarding two freebies.  At Y team fouls, the opposing team gets to take free throws whether or not the other guy was shooting at the time of the foul.  The numbers X and Y, I can only presume, are completely arbitrary.

Now, consider Kobe Bryant.  He’s got the best free throw percentage on the Lakers, at 85.8% this season.  Simple math shows that whenever he’s sent to the line, he’ll return 1.71 points (2 * .858).  A little luck from Orlando’s best 3PT shooter, Jameer Nelson (@45%), and the Magic are in the game.

It’s universally understood by coaches, players, and fans, that as the clock winds down at the end of the game, players are supposed to hack and grab and foul eachother.  If that’s the case, then there’s clearly a problem with the penalization system currently employed.  Slash a guy in hockey and you sit in the penalty box for 2 minutes.  Hit a guy hard enough in soccer, and you get a man disadvantage for the rest of the game.  But foul a guy in basketball, and improve your chances at winning the game?  Preposterous.

And you get six chances!  Six fouls before the refs throw you out of the game.  Six penalties in any other sport would merit a fine or a suspension.  In basketball, it’s just the nature of the game.

3. Let your best player take free shots



Let’s say, instead, that you’re the winning team.  What’s the best way to defend against the inane strategy implemented by the other team?  Just give the ball to Kobe (or whoever your best player is otherwise), sit back, and watch him make free shots.  No defense, no playmaking, no strategies.  Often enough, you’ll win the game.  Ironically enough, the entire premise of Baseketball was that the main characters were only good at making open shots and didn’t want to move around too much.  Turns out, apparently, they would have been just fine in the NBA.


Moral of the story:  Basketball sucks.  I didn’t even go into the fact that it’s silly how inches in height are just as important an asset as physical strength or athletic ability.  All I can say for sure is that the sport reached its pinnacle in 1996, and has been on a downwards spiral ever since.


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§ 33 Responses to Basketball Sucks.

  • modady says:

    yet millions of ppl turning everyday to watch the games……………and im one of them ha! basketball is the best sport ever so fuck u.

    • JJ says:

      It’s sooo overrated…since ESPN covers it, that’s why it gets attention. Before the 2005 NHL lockout, hockey ratings were right there, though on a down slide.

      David Stern sent Bettman to the NHL to ruin it, and he has. That doesn’t change the fact that hockey has always been a superior sport to the extremely boring and ridiculous basketball.

      the NBA really sucks, the intensity is 0 on a good night…

    • Mike says:

      People are stupid for the most part including you. In an average NBA basketball game, around 45 foul calls are made… imagine how bad football would be to watch if 45 penalties were called during a game. Basketball puts wayyyy to much power in the refs hands.

  • Now *that’s* how you win an internet argument.

  • […] bit polarizing for me, considering my high opinion of Bill Simmons, and low opinion of the game of basketball.  (Just noticed this, by the way – my blog currently ranks 4th in Google for the search […]

    • jacques bettencourt says:

      i have to agree with you josh. i will never understand basketball and i will never understand how people do. the phenomena of basketball in america is a complete fucking enigma to me. sometimes i’m at the gym on the tread and somebody will have an NBA or NCAA game on… and for 5 miles and 35 minutes i will watch my little red LED man run around his little red LED track… because that is more entertaining and substantive to me than any game of basketball i have ever had the misfortune to see.

  • Sultan Osman says:

    Yes, Basketball sucks. It’s the same thing over and over and over again. It’s like a joke that nobody gets for the millionth time. And they go back home, come back the week after and hear the same joke again, and still not able to get it.

    It’s a stupid game and frankly very boring. Nothing to roar about or shout about. They score faster than you can blink.

    Here’s how Basketball can become ‘better’.
    1. Ban men from playing it. Make it an all-womens game.
    2. [Yeah, this part was way, waayy too vulgar -JP]
    3. You can only shoot outside the circle and it’s worth 1 point.
    4. [This too -JP]

  • Tim says:

    I loathe basketball. If you happen to be 7 ft tall and reasonably coordinated bam your in the NBA. Try playing hockey at 7 ft tall or football or virtually any other sport. Basketball is like watching paint dry. Hockey is the best sport ever!

    • Hear, hear! Thanks, Tim.

      I’ve had friends argue that being bigger is always better throughout professional sports, and for such physically intense games, I could hardly disagree. But nowhere else is an individual’s height such a distinct asset.

      For your create-a-character in many NBA video games, increasing your player’s height is an attribute that can be filled up and is weighed equally to skills in shooting, speed, or steals.

      In no other sport is height so universally recognized and recalled by fans. Most engaged basketball fans could tell you that Yao Ming is 7’6″ tall. How many people outside of the Sidney Crosby fanclub could tell you that he’s 5’11”?

      (note: I had to look Crosby’s height up on Google. I didn’t for Yao.)

    • Jim says:

      Agreed. hockey is awesome

    • More says:

      Who fucking cares bout height i think even a 5 ft can destroy a 7 ft

  • bigjuan says:

    the taller your height the closer you are to the basket therefore making it easier to score block shots and rebound. Thats why you would rather have a 6’6 guard than a 6’0 guard. You guys just dont understand the game and basketball highlights are better than any other sports highlights especially boring ass hockey

    • That’s precisely the problem. Height is not a skill. You can’t train for height, you couldn’t have height contests the same way you have 3-point contests or home run contests. It’s ridiculous that you end up with NBA players like Yi Jianlian or Shawn Bradley who are there by merit of shirt size alone.

      There’s plenty I still don’t understand about the game—primarily in the department of explaining why so many timeouts are necessary, why so many fouls are necessary, and how it’s determined that some timeouts and some fouls have different consequences than others. Care to explain?

  • […] old favorite post of mine: Basketball Sucks. It’s among the most popular all time posts on my humble little […]

  • I freakin’ hate basketball, it’s gotta be the world’s stupidest sport. The only reason it’s popular here is because of all the gangbangers that have popularized it by wearing basketball jerseys and hats and videos I went to a freakin’ Jazz game a couple of years ago because my freind had tickets, and it was retarded. It was my first NBA game and I thought I would give it a try. Bad idea. Usually at every other sporting event like hockey they play music between stoppages, but during the whole freakin’ basketball game the music never stopped. I didn’t get it. What was worse was the jumbotron kept telling the fans when to cheer and when to get louder. It does happen in hockey too but you don’t need fans to be told to get louder at a Hawks or Canadiens game. The other thing I don’t get is why the hell is there so much scoring? There is no build up, no drama, no nothing. One team gets the ball and they score, then they give the ball to the other team and they score, and it goes back and forth for 4 tiresome quarters. Even if there is excitement, it happens like in the final 2 minutes maybe, but then that’s even marred by it seems like an infinite amount of time outs and stupid free thows that 9 out of 10 times the players make, so what the hell is the point of fouling? Unlike soccer and hockey, basketball is like watching paint dry even golf is more exciting.

  • Basketball fan says:

    You get the same amount of timeouts for basketball that you do football, its just that you get all 6 at the beginning of the game and football you get 3 each half. And heinght isnt as big a deal as you say. Look at dwight howard, hes i think 6’11 and one of the bestcenters there is where as most centers are 3 inches taller than him. Also the last 2 minutes in basketball are just like football, and with the same amount of timeouts. Plus you can only call times when you have the ball. Now i do agree there are too many fouls but the x y stystem that you said is actually pretty fair.. Bottom line basketball is an intense good sport.

    • According to Wikipedia ( Six regular timeouts for the game, plus one 20-second timeout per half. So eight, total. More than football.

      Arguing that height is not a distinct advantage in basketball would be futile. Consider: “A typical NBA center is between 6’10” (2.08 m) and 7’3″ (2.21 m).” ( The tallest hockey player EVER only stands at 6’9″. Major League Baseball has only ever had ONE person reach 6’11, Jon Rauch. In the NFL, you’ve got one 7ft guy, Richard Sligh, who only lasted eight games in the 60’s.

      Howard’s case is special, as his superior talent trumps a modest disadvantage in height. But consider the fact that he’s thought to be “below average,” and yet, he’d be the definitive tallest active player in any other professional sport, and it’s clear to see that Basketball is a tall man’s game.

      While football does abuse the clock-stopping capabilities of timeouts at the end of the match, the sport of the game isn’t fundamentally broken in the final few minutes. Riskier play (long passes) is rewarded—same as any sport. In basketball, however, abusive play (fouling the other players) is rewarded. It’s your job to get a penalty—intentionally!—if you’re losing in the last two minutes. Abusive play to stop the clock in the NFL (say, faking an injury) is penalized heavily. Heck, excluding fighting in hockey, think about how intentional penalties are handled in any other sport.

  • Felix says:

    A long time ago, I used to love basketball. A lot of this was because it was so ingrained into everything – it’s shown constantly on ESPN and major networks, making it popular among all my friends and thus, it’s one of the few team sports I could really play.

    After a while as the novelty of it died down, I started to realize how terrible the sport really is. You are exactly right about the stupid importance of height, how intentionally fouling actually helps teams, and the huge influence refs have on the game. What’s sad is that just about every game I watch is decided by the refs – the fact that calls are so subjective, so common, and directly influence a team’s score means that refs can completely control a game like no other sport.

    Instead of fixing this glaring flaw, the NBA embraces it and routinely abuses it for the sake of ratings. The Lakers-Kings series and the betting scandal are among the most infamous, but the fact that just about every home team shoots twice as many free throws as the away team in itself is extremely telling. Basketball is rife with corrupt officials and everyone knows this, yet no one cares. That baffles me.

  • Felix says:

    Nice articles, it’s good to see others doing extensive research on the topic. I don’t think it’s the team’s fault for the extremely biased referees, since despite the obvious shady stuff going around, a team would still have too much to lose if they get caught. Instead, the blame goes to the league for allowing and even encouraging bias simply for the sake of ratings. The fact that none of these scandals have really hurt the NBA’s ratings just encourages them to continue these practices.

    But the problem extends to the entire sport in general. The fact that so much as touching the player with the ball (With maybe one or two exceptions) is a foul shows, in my opinion, how ridiculous it is. As much as basketball fans want to claim their sport is tough, it really isn’t.

    I have more to say about how I hate basketball, but I’ll stop for now. I’m glad I’m not the only one who isn’t taken in by networks trying to jam it down our throats.

    • Felix,

      I don’t see why an individual team would have all that much more to lose than the league in general. And that still leaves open the question as to why the bias is consistently bent towards home teams. Where would the league stand to benefit by making the home teams win more often? Is the league more exciting for fans, in general, when their team wins?

      No, the home ownership benefits most when their team wins—better ratings, more fans, and higher chance of more home games during the playoffs.

      If it was primarily the league’s doing, I think we’d see a paper trail of favorable games being called for the teams with the biggest (inter)national markets: Lakers, Knicks, etc. The league wants most for those teams to win to draw the interest of casual fans. None of the articles I read have shown the big market teams to get the majority of favorable calls during the season.

      That said—we *have* seen this to be the case in the playoffs, notably in the infamous Kings/Lakers 2002 series. In all likelihood, both parties have a horse in the race.

      Not to mention the last, and probably most directly affected party: The referees themselves. The whole, entire Tim Donaghy scandal came about because gamblers were able to bribe him to sway games. Could you argue that a referee making deliberately lousy calls would have the same overwhelming effect on other sports? In football, soccer, and hockey, there’s much less room for open interpretation. In baseball, you might say it’s up to the home plate umpire to call balls and strikes; however, I’d argue that A) he’s under a lot more direct scrutiny of fans and players, and B) he’d need a lot more collusion with players to either hold off on their swings or aim pitches in the right locations.


      • Felix says:

        Well, many would argue that the Lakers DO get preferential treatment, possibly the Celtics as well, as do just about every superstar in the game. As for the Knicks, there’s a huge controversy of whether or not the 1985 lottery was rigged to let the Knicks get Patrick Ewing. The video has since been taken down, but there was some extremely fishy things going on while they were picking teams. It’s nothing that would convict them of wrongdoing, but considering Stern’s shoddy track record of fairness, it does raise a lot more questions.

        The reason why refs would favor the home team is because of the extremely subjective nature of calls and the influence of crowds. In the playoffs, this is compounded even more, especially as a “home team wins” extends the series.

        Maybe teams are in on it as well, but personally, I’d like to believe it’s not a league-wide conspiracy but instead just a couple greedy guys at the top. Take the Lakers-Kings series – As far as I know, no one in the Lakers had colluded with the refs, it was all Stern’s doing. But in any case, it’s not entirely important. The important thing is that it leaves the NBA with a tarnished image, and All Stern tries to do is cover it up instead of trying to fix it.

  • More says:

    too much scoring? because its easy. Outside So Far and only 3 points? Because its not hard. looks hard but its not. not only nba thinks it easy even normal people who play for fun think its not that hard. Taller the better? Nope. You can actually crossover them easily how bout those giants 7ft who are slow ass giants . You can cross them and even make them fall and break their ankles getting embarrassed. Giants block your shot now your embarrassed. Everyone gets blocked even giants Too much fouls? Man up dont go like ooooohhh shiit that huts awwww stupid cheater !! No. You get fucking free throws thats why free throws are important ( 2 points ) its not all bout shooting shoot its about the crossovers the tricks the impossible shots the crazy dunks

    • Felix says:

      Uh, no you can’t. Basketball doesn’t work this way. A 7-footer won’t be guarding a guard, he’ll be clogging the paint. After you crossover and get into the paint, the 7-footer will step in, right in front of the basket – they barely ever have to move.You’re really just fooling yourself if you don’t think height impacts the game far more than actual athletic ability.

      What’s funny is you admit basketball is easy and free throws are incredibly important, which are actually the points being made. Congratulations, you just reinforced why basketball sucks.

  • Pat says:

    You left one very important, and absolutely absurd, thing out: In basketball, a large part of the game is acting like you got fouled, when in actuality, the “contact” did nothing to unfairly disadvantage you in your game play.

    Faking fouls (or “drawing” fouls, as basketball likes to sugar coat it) has to be the most cowardly thing in all of sports, ever. Yet, in basketball its “part of the game,” as basketball fans/players like to put it. In football, a player would never dream of faking pass interference, the player is doing what he’s supposed to do, trying to catch the ball to the best of his ability; if he gets interfered with, the ref will call pass interference. In hockey, you fake a penalty, you get a penalty called “diving,” (not to mention the ridicule of being deemed a coward.)

    Thus, basketball not only is slow and boring, lacks any form of excitement at the end of 85% of the games, and is infested with premadonnas, it is also cowardly as well.

  • […] like to approximate things. So, for example, if I’ve just played prolific amounts of the world’s suckiest sport, I might say […]

  • Michael Jordan says:

    Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion. If you don’t like basketball, just keep it to yourself, you don’t need to post it on the internet. By the way you hockey fans are commenting, it seems like you guys are jealous that hockey isn’t as famous as basketball.

  • […] Basketball Sucks is probably the greatest thing I’ve ever written. It’s time for the sequel. […]

  • […] like to approximate things. So, for example, if I’ve just played prolific amounts of the world’s suckiest sport, I might say […]

  • […] old favorite post of mine: Basketball Sucks. It’s among the most popular all time posts on my humble little […]

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