The above question is often posed to me by fellow athletes and a few old teammates. It is because the original game that was invented when Dr. Naismith hung up that famous peach basket and challenged players to develop the ability to score from various points on the court has transmogrified to something resembling an MMA contest.
It has now developed into some sort of thuggery with the chief three pro basketball players most adept at it being Lebron James, James Harden and Russell Westbrook. This trio would rather charge into an opposing player in order to get two free throws rather than to evade him and make a layup.
While this is being written with the Warriors ahead 3-0, the outcome of the finals may have already transpired. Noticeably absent at least on camera during the finals match-up has been the current NBA commissioner. Perhaps the sight of blood is too much for him.
While the play on court has been overly physical, it is often overshadowed by the abysmal refereeing. The somewhat timid refs have a propensity never to blow the whistle and too frequently visit the scorer’s table to see what just happened on court. Then they refer to an amorphous expert thousands of miles away so that the commentators can become aware of what they just saw. Speaking of the commentators, they roundly applaud the great energy that is shown on court by the most physical players. They often say, “Since it’s the finals, let them play.”
There has been a great number of excessive fouls during the playoffs, but the two most egregious were Harden’s elbow to Curry’s temple and the rolling football block by a Cavaliers player on Clay Thompson that sent the latter to the locker room with a serious injury.
Getting back to Naismith and early basketball days, it was a game of speed and skill and was supposed to have been devoid of physical contact unless it was accidental. Today the mantra is “If you are going to make a foul, make it a hard foul.” In its origination, the game specified that the player making the original contact was the creator of the foul. In contrast, a player today like Lebron can use an elbow to the pit of the stomach or a hand to the chest to fend off a defensive player. If any contact is determined by the ref, it is in favor of Lebron who then goes to the free-throw line.
The aforementioned trio of pro players are also adept at another trick which is to jump into a defender while attempting a three-point shot.
Two new aspects of the game are the ability to take an extra step before shooting a layup and the art of dribbling the ball from the bottom of the sphere instead of the top. In the past the extra step would have been called travelling and the underhand dribble would have been considered carrying the ball. One thing to note in upcoming games is that the venerated Lebron frequently drags his pivot foot before bull-rushing an opponent. Also in this year’s finals Lebron has demonstrated a talent for histrionics whenever a foul happens to be called upon him. No matter how much he berates the official who has dared to cite him, he very seldom receives a technical foul, which he should. Apparently the mighty Lebron has begun believing his press clippings, some of which state that he is soon to eclipse Michael Jordan as the greatest player of all time.
Despite Lebron’s heroic achievements in the first three games of the finals, his supporting cast let the first game slip away and were unable to take advantage of super star Steph Curry’s cold shooting night in game three.
There is no question that Curry may be the best all-around player the game has ever seen. Every commentator has noted that he is the best shooter in the history of the game. But his other talents such as dribbling and passing are without peer. His ability, despite his relatively small stature, to drive in against towering seven-footers and make the layup is amazing at times. He is adept with both hands and shoots equally well underhand or overhand. Most coaches will tell you that the only thing they can’t teach their players is speed, which happens to be a hallmark of the ever in-motion Curry.
He may well be the player that eclipses both Jordan and Lebron.