Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Basketball is pretty cool too.

Last week Kottke linked to a post about why Baseball is the best of all games.

We make the case for basketball.

There are many arguments to be made: the awesomeness of the dunk, the sweet crispness of a catch and shoot three, etc, but the most fundamental difference is that basketball allows a synchronization unavailable in other sports. Obviously all team sports require teamwork, but basketball more than the rest relies on and even thrives on creative teamwork.

A taste.

Basketball, Hockey and Soccer are obviously all similar in this regard. Football relies heavily on planning and strategy and is segmented. Sure, a runner scores a touchdown because of the blocking, but rarely is a block conceived spontaneously. Similarly the Favreian improviser is praised because that quality is so unusual.

If football is segmented, then baseball is almost completely a collection of individual moments assembled together. It lacks fluidity. It's why the Jamesian numbers approach gained such traction, whereas its been more difficult to apply similar concepts to other sports.

Hockey, Soccer and Basketball are similar in their essence, but the former two are expressly more restrictive. In hockey the full range of motion is constrained because on skates players are locked to the ground. And even on the ground they can only turn around or move laterally in limited ways; the acrobatics happen in spite of the skates.

Soccer is closest to basketball, but because it is played on such a large field, it's play is more spaced out and thus moments of hyper-connectivity are fewer. Plus there's the obvious limitation of playing handsless. Having to use your feet and being on skates are what makes soccer and hockey respectively interesting. But by limiting the body's capabilities they limit synchronization.

Basketball at its peak is the pinnacle of wordless communication: the no look pass, the behind the back pass, the alley-oop...Isn't that an instinctive pleasure - to be in sync with others?

This dovetails with our CP3 post from last week re the resurgence of watchable basketball after a decade-plus of isos, 10 second post-ups, and scores in the 80s.

Thats why it was so easy for everyone to jump on the Suns bandwagon a few years back,

or the Warriors bandwagon last spring.

Sure, an 8-1 upset is compelling in its own right, but no one was lovin' the '94 Nuggets that much.

Open-court, pass-happy basketball, ie basketball played the right way, engages even the uninterested non-fan, because that kind of creative and spontaneous athletic communication strikes a chord universally.

We leave you with Showtime.

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