There’s no “I” in basketball

I was never really into sports until I turned seven, when I was introduced to basketball.

It wasn’t a sport I adapted to quickly. In the beginning, I was pretty bad: I had a terrible shot, my defense was wretched and I couldn’t pass for dear life. I thought my career in basketball would end very soon.

Thirteen years and hundreds (maybe thousands) of games later, I can truly say that I love basketball. But not just the excitement of a dunk or the swiftness of a crossover dribble – something more.

When I play the game, it’s very much like playing a game of chess – you have to think of strategy. To play is to strategize. Yet, lately, the strategic element in basketball has been on a decline – all players want to do now is crossover, dunk and/or score.

The art of basketball has suddenly shifted from a cooperative sport that involves the team to an overly individualistic game that centers on the production of one player.

Let me make this clear – basketball was never meant to be an individual sport. Now, players are obsessed with themselves. But what do you expect when you live in a society that values individualism over cooperation? This way of thinking ultimately affects the game of basketball.

Fans satiate over players like Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady and Allen Iverson. Yet the media and fans often downplay teams. Why? Because basketball has become a thrill sport, not a strategic sport.

The NBA wants to produce a product that appeals to the everyday fan – these fans don’t want to see Box 1 or 2-3 zones. They want to see 360 dunks and ill-advised crossovers. They don’t want to see well-coached yet low-scoring games. They want to see high-scoring games, even at the expense of well-played basketball.

Basketball has always been entertaining. However, there was a sense of purity associated with professional basketball – it was lauded for its competitiveness and cooperativeness.

What attracted fans to basketball in the early days were not instinctual essences of the game like the dunk or the crossover (in fact it wasn’t until 1970 that the dunk became popular), it was the play of teams like the Boston Celtics and the L.A. Lakers.

It was the individual play of players like Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Bob Petit, George Mikan, John Havlicek, Jerry West, Bob Cousy and many others. These players made the game exciting, but not at the expense of team basketball.

Although I was not alive to see these guys in action, I have watched vintage games. As I watch these games, I’m simply amazed – crisp passes, excellent shooting form, accurate free-throw shooting and genuine team basketball.

So, in this respect, I am a conservative – I long for a return to the glory days of basketball. Yet I doubt this will happen in the near future. In fact, I feel like the sport will continue to descend into a money-making machine at the expense of good basketball.