Both college and pro basketball are extremely entertaining. But at least the NBA's entertainers make the money they deserve. To me, that's more pure.
In part, the NCAA sells fairy tales. Mostly, the NBA sells reality. Amazing reality. Physical genius, as former NBA coach Dick Motta called it.
Yes, sometimes that reality includes Latrell Sprewell, who's in the last year of a five-year, $62-million contract, demanding a raise because he has a family to feed. Sometimes, it includes Ron Artest, the human technical foul, going after a fan in the stands and starting a riot. Sometimes, it includes the NBA version of Wally Cleaver Kobe Bryant committing adultery and being embroiled in allegations of sexual assault.
Yet I get just as sick of college apologists scoffing that the NBA is just a bunch of overpaid, underachieving thugs. That's an absurd exaggeration. Trust me, college basketball has its share of underpaid thugs. Trust me, college diehards: Most NBA players practice and play just as hard as most college players.
College basketball is more of a coach's game, and too many over-coach the life out of it. The NBA is more of a players' (and fans') game. NBA coaching is just as crucial and far more complex, though pro coaches don't get (or take) anywhere near the credit that celebrity college coaches do.
Several times last weekend, I watched college teams fail to get a shot off in the final 10 seconds or so of a tie game. Last year, I watched Derek Fisher of the Lakers make an astonishing shot catching, twisting and releasing with 0.4 seconds left to shock the Spurs.
Last Sunday, I watched Kentucky's Patrick Sparks make an overtime-forcing 3-pointer that was astonishing for the wrong reasons. How did a shot that off-line bounce so softly around the rim and finally fall? Yet the shot was off-line because Sparks was rammed in midair by Michigan State's Kelvin Torbert. No, there wasn't any hand-to-hand or arm-to-arm contact. But that clearly was a shot-changing hip-check foul that was not called.
Sparks should have been shooting a free throw to win a game that Kentucky eventually lost.
Yet the refs were so caught up in whether Sparks' toe was touching the 3-point line that they took more than six minutes to decide that the shot did indeed count for three points. Most NBA refs would have quickly and correctly called the foul and the foot.
But I still love college basketball.
I just love its big brother more.
Skip Bayless can be seen Monday through Friday on "Cold Pizza," ESPN2's morning show, and at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN's "1st & 10." His column appears twice weekly on Page 2. You can e-mail Skip here.