It's OK to Like The NBA

December 02, 2008 | Comments (0) | by The Hundley

The NBA is not a bad word. Really. It's OK, you can like it. Somewhere along the way you got the idea that you were supposed to hate the NBA and professional basketball players. They're too rich, too arrogant, too selfish, too black, too European. They don't play defense anymore, all they do is dunk, and they're more concerned about their image and bank account than the team and its record. Nevermind the fact that you could make these claims about the MLB and NFL. No, the NBA doesn't get a free pass. Even though their sport requires the most athletic ability, even though it's played at faster pace, even though they have to hold that pace for a longer time.

Let's be realistic, the NBA has it's share of bad apples, just like the other sports of The Big Three. However, let's think of the negative connotations that they receive. Latrell Spreewell went after his coach, ultimately putting him in a choke hold. Spree went on to claim how his contract offer of over $10M was insulting and that he had a family to feed. Rightfully so, he was vilified by the media and court of public opinion. Likewise, ex-Reds (Cincinnati and Cedar Rapids) closer, Rob Dibble put then coach, Lou Piniella in a headlock and wrestled him to the ground, and it was caught on tape. Later in his career, The Nasty Boy even went on to throw a ball into the stands, hitting a fan. And let's not forget his intentional pegging of Lil' Doug Dascenzo after a bunt down the firstbase line. Dibble now? A beloved (and wealthy) radio personality. The NFL and Ray Lewis. He's still playing - need I say more?

Fear not, people. There are reasons to watch the NBA. It's a league that is full intriguing players. Just give it a chance. Here are five reasons to watch:

1. Chris Paul. You can have your LeBron James, I'll take CP3. He's not the same punk nut-puncher that he was at Wake Forest. He's a throwback to the glory days of the NBA. Well, at least mine, which were the run-and-gun days of the mid-80's. His vision and court presence is actually detectable when you watch him play. Someone who has no idea about basketball could see him play and would be able to say that #3 knows what he's doing. He plays enough defense to keep people honest, but when he has the ball, the game revolves around him. He can shoot the deep ball, he's got a great handle, he's one of the best passers in the game, he's a force when driving to the hoop, he rebounds like he's 6" taller than he is. Basically, he's the total package. Oh yeah, and you Old Schoolers? He plays hard.

2. Kevin Garnett. Speaking of guys who play hard, there's this guy. He's the scrappy, Charlie Hustle that drove you nuts on the court in Junior High. The guy you wanted to tell to take it easy, that it's just a game. That's Garnett, he plays like Rudy did at Notre Dame, only he has superstar talent. A seven footer who can handle the ball, has a better than average outside shot, you'd swear he could jump out of the gym, and the guy is a monster on the defensive end, one capable of changing a game. No one wants to win as much as KG. On a personal note, I absolutely abhor the Celtics, but I couldn't help but be genuinely happy for him when he won the championship. If the worst knock on you is that you sometimes care too much, I think you're doing OK.

3. Derrick Rose. I'll admit, I thought the Bulls should have taken Mike Beasley with the number one pick this year. I could not have been more wrong. This kid (Jesus, he was born in 1988!) is special, no SPECIAL. Hard to believe that he's only 20 years old and only had one year of big time playing (Memphis University) up until now. He's playing like a bigger Steve Nash right now. He's making passes and plays from angles that don't exist. Sure his jump shot is a bit shakey, but it's bound to improve. Teams know that, so the play off of him, and he still beats them to the hoop. His potential is scary. Just watch a Bulls game and you'll gush about him. He's not hard to spot, he's the lone bright spot on a team of absolute turds and an overwhelmed coach.

4. Kobe. Yeah, I said Kobe. Keep your rotten produce to yourself. He's the guy you love to hate. And he's the guy you hate to say is the best player in the NBA. Sometimes, the truth hurts. He's become more dangerous now that he understands that he doesn't have to do it all alone. More than anyone else in the league, he's making the players around him better. He's still arguably the best offensive player in the game (him or LeBron), and he is a lockdown, first team All NBA defender. How many guys can you say that about? Denial ain't just a river in Egypt, kids.

5. Greg Popovich. He gets respect. Just look at his team. In an era of the NBA where teams can rarely stay at the top for long, Pop has been a mainstay. And he does it his way. Is it the most popular way? No, not at all. Here's a guy who has no problem playing Hack-a-Shaq early in the game. He's a rare breed in the NBA, a coach who can intimidate opposing players. The aforementioned Diesel was so frustrated at being ineffective that he tried to call out Pop's manhood in the media. Pop's reply: no comment. But a look that said, "Make your free throws and it wouldn't happen." In an era where coaches frequently experience very short tenures and inability to keep their team's trust, Pop has been a rock. Helps that his volunteer and charity work worldwide is legendary as well.

Honorable Mention: LeBron James, comically questionable officiating, Deron Williams, Dwyane Wade, Jerry Sloan, Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard, Tim Duncan, Bradon Roy, Team USA, Tony Parker-Longoria, OJ Mayo, Chris Bosh, horribly biased home team announcing crews.