NBA vs. College Basketball

Over the course of the semester, I have attended multiple University of Michigan basketball games along with a New York Knicks game here in Michigan. As a huge New York Knicks fan, there was no way I was missing an opportunity to watch them while they were in town. However, I was extremely disappointed with the effort they displayed on the court. I have noticed a big difference that is evident between college basketball players and NBA players. It seems that college athletes put so much more effort into the game while they play, while NBA players tend to take plays off and play in a complacent manner. The idea of play popped into my head while comparing the college and professional game.

Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens defines the nature of play and its characteristics. There are 5 key rules that define what play truly is, which includes that play cannot be defined, it is distinct from ordinary life and at a certain moment is over, it has its rules and no profit is gained by it.

NY Knicks players discuss their defense during a timeout, after giving up 10 straight points.

The NBA completely goes against Huizinga’s definition of play. Today, many NBA players have taken the entertainment out of the game, transforming the game into a business. First off, NBA players do receive profit from playing, usually a hefty check in the millions. Not only that, but there are numerous players who search for the highest contract on the market, instead of just being happy with playing the game. They have taken the excitement and fun out of the game. This behavior is evident by their play on the court. I cannot begin to tell how many times the Knicks have simply given up in a game. The effort is poor, and the players are simply going through the motions just to get through the game.

As a fan, this makes me belligerent, and sometimes raises questions as to why I support such a team. On the other hand, I see the Michigan Wolverines as a perfect example of Huizinga’s definition of play. While watching their games this year, I have never seen a player on the court take a play off. The level of effort and competitiveness in these college players is incomparable to the professionals. They do it solely for enjoyment and their passion for competitiveness. While most college athletes receive scholarships to play sports, they do not receive any monetary reward for their efforts. All of this is part of the reason why college basketball has become one of the more popular sports in the U.S. At times, I wish the NBA players would play as hard as college players, so every game would be entertaining to watch.


One thought on “NBA vs. College Basketball

  1. I really enjoyed this post for a multitude of reasons. After being a season ticket holder to the Miami Heat my entire life and attending my first Michigan basketball game last night, the difference is incomparable. NBA players play for the contract, they lose sight of what got them to that point in the first place which was the love of the game. College basketball players play the game because they want to get to the next level but also because they love what they do. Just like you mentioned, there is no monetary reward at the collegiate level and if the players didn’t love the game they would have no reason to play. The players in college basketball exemplify what Huizinga defines as “play”.


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