There are a lot of things about basketball that have always bugged me, and formed my semi-distaste of actually watching it. As far as playing ball, I had a sort of knack for it, for the same reason that I was a reasonably good pitcher in about 5th and 6th grade. I understood that having accuracy was important, whether it was throwing the baseball in the strike zone or throwing the basketball in the hoop. But what bugged me about watching it was a couple things. It was a high enough scoring game that I thought it made every basket that much more trivial. And it had a weird enough schedule that I couldn’t follow it religiously, having been raised on weekly football games and daily baseball.
The schedule thing I’m starting to gain an appreciation for, because the people always need sports. And since I’ve been watching more, you really start to get an appreciation for which baskets mean the most and when not getting a basket means a lot, too. I got roped back in I think by the George Masons and Gonzagas of March, which is when I started to pick up on some of these things. And I warmed to the Wolves when they picked up Kevin Love, who I had seen play well in the tournament the year before.
With all that, I’ve found so much more to like about the sport- the personalities and polarity that they cultivate; the excitement that almost every game comes down to; the fact that we have the top league in this sport that has become truly a global one, possibly second only to soccer. But there is at least one deficiency that it has become painfully obvious needs to be addressed. There needs to be a legitimate minor leagues of basketball.
The sport, we’re finding out, is not like football in that college serves as a default minor leagues. College football and the pro version are similar enough that the transition is much easier, and pro football teams have enough room on their rosters to keep any talent that they may need in the distant future. Teams even seem to be nervous these days that late bloomers like Jeremy Lin, who they won’t be always able to justify keeping, are going to slip through their fingers. But a lack of additional talent might also hold back the expansion of the current D-League format. Players see being sent down as much more shameful, and basketball players, as much as those in any sport, got where they are because of pride and ego. Part of the process, then, would be transitioning the lower league from a mentality of “You failed to make the pros” to “This is actually just part of the pro system”.
Basketball is also, for a variety of reasons, probably as suited as anyone to maintain a widespread, lower-level version of itself. They already have one of the better expansion strategies of major pro sports in America. The NBA has found that it works really well in areas that don’t have any other sports teams, examples being the Thunder (sorry, Seattle), the Magic (no, Jacksonville doesn’t count) and Memphis. It’s a very accessible sport, and people just like their city being put on the sports map in any capacity. Minor-league-sized arena would be easy enough to fund, and may already exist in many places they would try to do it. The drawback is that so many of the accessible markets might already be in use or would be trampled on by some nearby team.