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Monday, March 25, 2002
Updated: March 29, 7:21 PM ET
NBA takes the kids to school

By Ralph Wiley
Page 2 columnist

What follows are 29 reasons why the NBA, the pro run, is better to watch, chew on, digest than NCAA hoop, the college (or semi-pro) run. Your opinions on this matter might not agree with mine. Your opinions on most matters usually don't, do they? Why should this be any different?

Please check this out anyway. There might be something here to give you cause, pause, change of heart, possibly acid reflux. Send all comparisons, contrasts and complaints to the Page 2 Crew. I'll be busy thinking up more reasons.

Ready? Engage.

Charles Barkley
With Charles Barkley in the studio, the NBA is always more entertaining.
1. NBA has Charles Barkley; NCAA has Clark Kellogg.
This sums it up in a nutshell -- Chuck's Milk Dud head being the nut. Kellogg -- real nice guy, clean-cut, admits Bony James' cool jazz fusion is his favorite kind of music, makes good points about tourney games. Occasionally picks an upset. No doubt drinks merlot -- one glass -- with dinner, if the boss is having some. Doesn't laugh too loud in studio. Never mentions Greg Gumbel's exploding waistline on air. Safe. Sane.

Then we have Chuckles -- maniacal free associations, outrageous opinions, laughs at his own exploding waistline, dead reckoning on what/who is wrong with the league, appears on mag covers in chains, doesn't care who likes it, who doesn't. You can visualize Chuck sneaking a double-cheese and a couple of Coronas while listening to Korn or Wu-Tang and asking, "What da hell ... is that!?" And making it seem funny.

2. In the NBA, when a grown heterosexual man tells a 20-year-old junior-college student, "I need you," he's usually talking to a woman; in the NCAA, not so.
This is self-explanatory, or it certainly would be if you'd ever taken a recruiting trip with Bob Huggins.

3. NBA playoffs have NBC, TNT, TBS and soon ABC & ESPN; NCAA Tournament has CBS.
Need we say more? (Disney bosses probably don't think so). CBS is the network of the bland leading the bland. NBC, TNT, TBS, ABC, ESPN are the networks of everything else. They've got their share of The Great Blandini, but the NCAA must add HBO, or at least BRAVO, the Discovery Channel and A&E, or MTV, to be taken seriously.

4. NBA has a long regular season, one possible five-game war and three possible seven-game wars in the playoffs; NCAA has a meaningless regular season and a rollicking one-and-out tourney that ends too quick.

5. NBA has Mark Cuban; NCAA has B. Allen Sugg.

Ashley Judd
College hoop does have Ashley Judd going for it, which is nice.
6. NBA has Tyra Banks hooking up C-Webb a little sump'm-sump'm, thereby making him babble like a madman; NCAA has Ashley Judd teasing Dickie V. by rubbing his head, thereby making him babble like a madman.

7. NBA has Ernie Johnson in a goatee; NCAA has Greg Gumbel doing his woodwork impression.

8. NBA has Tiger Woods rooting for the Lakers; NCAA has Tiger Woods rooting for Stanford.

9. NBA has great players; NCAA has institutions.
Guys who would be great college players go right into the NBA at the first hint of any kind of world-class skills. Doesn't take much encouragement to make them bolt. Why should it? One dot.org is gonna pay me a mil-and-a-half per to play 82-100 games in cities like El Lay, New York, San Francisco Bay, Miami, Washington, D.C., Boston, Philly, Dallas, Houston or Phoenix, with plenty of spare honeys, hotties and babes, oh my, whizzing about.

The other dot.org is not gonna pay me to play in 45 games, up in Fresno, or down in Fayettville, Ark., or Auburn, Ala., or some other entertainment capital of civilization. Now, if I'm a great young actor, where'm I going, to summer stock in the Poconos, or with Ed Norton, John Travolta, Halle Berry and Jennifer Connelly on location in Maui for the next $100 mil Bruckhemier kaboom-fest?

Please.

Dan Dickau
Would you rather play for free in Spokane or take the bucks and turn pro?
If there are obvious flaws in the hoop games of young ballers, then they are told to stay "in college" ... only the people saying it don't mean, "in college," they mean, "in the minors," or "down on the farm," where flawed games are state-of-the-art. Nobody will notice mediocrity in the NCAA. Even if they stay in the NCAA as they mature and begin to get good, like they used to back in the day, even if they stay in the NCAA until they become 21 and 22, who'll be their comp? Nobody, is who. They've all gone to Maui.

Playing against students? Might as well get a degree, in that case. And it's not just being on TV -- it's how you're on TV. If you're on TV as an underdeveloped, bumbling, rock-headed, how-can-you-hoist-that-shot-up, not-see-that-pass, turn-that-ball-over, you-bow-wow-bum -- where's the gain in that? Ah, go to school or something.

The NCAA's hook is our fondness for its/our institutions -- not the level of ball that we're watching. If we actually thought about that, we'd say, "Hey ... this is kind of like ... a turnover-filled bughunt."

We all went to -- or have a mother, brother or bud who went to -- Cal, IU, Austin Peay, Louisville, Ball State, Duke, Winthrop, Gonzaga, Fresno, Yale, Kent, Davidson, Holy Cross, Princeton, Oregon, Hampton, U-Dub, Binghamton, Northwestern, etc., ad infinitum. So the NCAA has more loyal franchisees than Mickey D's.

Think about it, though -- have you ever seen an ivy-bedecked college campus itself execute a killer crossover move, bomb in three straight from beyond the state line, then sneer, and say, "Them three for y'mama. Tell her and your wife I said send me back that Japanese silk robe and slippers they bought me. Forgot to take 'em home on your last road trip. Unless you wanna use 'em."

No. You haven't.

Laker girls
As an NBA fan, you can ogle the Laker girls without feeling dirty.
10. NBA players make hoops you can't make; NCAA players miss hoops even the Taliban can make.
Really, if I see one more 2-foot bank shot as the go-to shot in the clutch, I'm gonna hurl stuff I didn't even know I ate. It's sad. It's pathetic. It's Dukie Carlos Boozer, missing a 2-footer, from point-blank range, against IU. How do you miss a 2-foot bank shot ... ever? There's no mystery in a 2-foot bank shot. Anybody who celebrates his team making a 2-footer to win would celebrate scoring with the cackling, sagging, lesion-filled old woman in the hotel bathub scene in "The Shining."

A two-foot banker is the Sarah Jessica Parker of made baskets. It might make Matthew Broderick happy, but, uh, um, I'll come back to that later.

In the NBA, everybody blocks that. Guys come in off the bench to block that shot. Coaches block that. George Karl blocks that shot. In the NBA, the 2-foot bank shot, staple of noontime-at-the-Y runs everywhere, is counterfeit ... as it should be, if I'm going to watch it, and call it entertainment.

11. NBA has Bill Walton; NCAA has Billy Packer.
Walton tells you when a play or player in the NBA is "horrible." Sounds like he's saying, "Whore-a-ble," which kind of works too. When Walton says, "Kobe is making Jason Kidd look like a sixth-grader," and Jason Kidd is also the league MVP this season, then you figure something interesting's afoot.

12. NBA has currency; NCAA has nostalgia.
Not that there's anything wrong with nostalgia. Fine if you're past 40. Or, if you like being 40. You do? Then the NCAA is for you ... until you have kids. Then you find out it's for them. Case in point:

Kobe Bryant
13. NBA has dancing girls; NCAA has wholesome cheerleaders
The Kevin Spacey character in "American Beauty" or Humbert Humbert in "Lolita" is not someone you want to admit to being. At any NBA game, if the slightly fraying, slightly freaky dancing girls who are "27" (sure you are, baby) get your attention in some ravenous way, then that's cool. That's what they're there for.

But if you ogle the hot teenaged pulchritude of the U. of Memphis dance girls, or the Kentucky cheerleaders, it makes a mature man feel like some kind of slobbering lech. Of course, you just go ahead and feel that, and move on, but it does leave residual guilt. NBA dancing girls, it's full-throttle fantasyland. You can in good conscience even go up and hit on one of them, if that's you, and if you don't mind a good laugh, whether it's on you or not.

14. NBA has the law; NCAA has NCAA regulations.
In the NBA, if you assault somebody on the street, you will get charged, bonded out, then have a trial, and it'll take a smooth mouthpiece to get you off, if you do beat it. But in the NCAAs, if you have a nice steak dinner with Arnold Palmer, and he pays for it, you are going to be banished from competition, and your school is going to be put on probation. No trial. No lawyer. No nothing.

15. NBA has Phil Jackson; NCAA has Coach K.
Phil Jackson is the one who gives his players books to read on the road. Name me one NCAA coach who does that. He's also got eight rings (plus one as a player).

Mike Krzyzewski
The class of Mike Krzyzewski scores some points for the college game.
But Coach K gets much more credit from us from now on, thanks to his beyond classy and quite educational postgame speech after the loss to Indiana last week. Go back over that quote: "I would never, ever blame a loss on one play, or an official, or a player ... if you want to blame anybody, blame me ... the game is too great to reduce it to excuses." Its subtext of self-accountability should be studied by coaches, student-athletes and George Karl.

In the wake of a loss, Coach K, a three-time NCAA tourney winner, might have begun to really become like the incomparable-as-an-educator-and-as-a-coach John Wooden. Still, Phil has eight rings, Coach K. has three.

16. NBA has a challenging 3-point shot; NCAA has a virtual layup 3.
An NBA 3-pointer is actually worth the three points; it's hoisted from some 24 feet away, and usually contested by long summamabe-atches who can jump really high. The NCAA 3 is a layup. Nothing else to say. It's a layup. After you hit four or five, the real smart NCAA coaches send out someone to guard you.

17. NBA doesn't pretend like coaches sitting on their doughy arses are the entertainment value here; NCAA does.
Except for G. Karl. And compared to, say, a Mike Davis, or Lute Olsen, or Kelvin Sampson, or Stan Heath, George Karl is as funny as a barrel of Charlie Chaplins.

18. NBA has Michael Jordan; NCAA only used to.
NCAA hoop was great when Worthy, Perkins and Michael Jordan were all in different classifications at Carolina -- frosh, soph and junior. Along with Matt Doherty and Jimmy Black as seniors against Georgetown with Patrick Ewing, Sleepy Floyd and Freddy Brown before 63K at Louisiana Superdome in the '82 NCAA final. Jordan won it with wing jumper. Brown lost it by throwing ball ...

... to a shocked and very out-of-position Worthy, out by halfcourt. NCAA had Jordan one more year. NBA has had him ever since. If Carolina gets another one of those, wake me up. NCAA hoop without a decent Carolina team alters primal forces of nature.

19. NBA has Larry Brown, who took six diferent NBA teams to the playoffs, won an NCAA title at one school, and went to the NCAA title game at another; NCAA has Matt Doherty.
When will they admit Doherty was a mistake? He ran off Joe Forte, who would've helped Carolina be competitive but wasn't ready to help an NBA team yet. So he's in limbo, when he could have been in the ACC entertaining folks. Carolina should ask Larry Brown whom to hire, since he probably won't take the job. Carolina could hire George Karl, but George would have to take a cut. (At $7 mil from the Bucks, the question is: What is George so mad about? It's not that his thong is too tight, obviously, since he told Esquire he doesn't wear underwear).

Kobe Bryant
Skipping college really seems to have hurt Kobe's development, huh?
20. NBA has Kobe; NCAA never did.
Not playing in the NCAA seems to have hurt his basketball development, didn't it?

21. NBA has KG; NCAA never did.
Ditto.

22. NBA has T-Mac; NCAA never did.
Double ditto.

23. NBA has Kwame Brown; NCAA never did.
Though, in all honesty, the Wizards have thought about throwing him back.

24. NBA has Tyson Chandler and Eddie Curry; NCAA never did.
And maybe the NCAA members don't really miss them, unless they offer a major in PlayStation 2.

25. NBA has George Karl; NCAA can only dream of having George Karl one day.
Among other things, George Karl believes Ray Allen, all 6-foot-3 of him, can somehow become the best player in the league if he growls more, hardens up. Ray Allen plays at an All-Star level, and has won playoff series for George, but George thinks if Ray goes more street, gets hard, has more edge, scowls, slaps some be-atches around, then it'll be like George said, "Shazam!" Ray'll become better than Kobe, T-Mac, KG, Alley I, Baron, Howziter, Gnash, C-Webb, Peja, GP, better than Paul Pierce, better than Shaqalackadingdong Himself -- if only the 6-3 Ray gets more street. Then he'll be the best in the game.

George Karl
As a public service, the NBA has kept George Karl away from the college kids.
Whoa. Guess I'd be better than Shakespeare, if only I'd study the human condition more. NBA gets props for having George Karl, keeping him away from coaching educational institutions like the University of North Carolina. This is the NBA as public service.

26. NBA has superior ball movement; NCAA has one guy dominating everything from the point.
The helping, switching defense takes a player away, the opposing star, at crunch time, with the double-team. The star swings ball, defense rotates, third man down gets the basket -- or, if the defense is really cooking, third man must reverse the swing, seeking the shot. It's beautiful when it's beautifully done. Some matchups don't work. Men must be switched. Substitution patterns change. Pace is manipulated. All that by halftime, Game 1. An NBA playoff series is like a movie about 20 lives. It's an ensemble piece, Basie's orchestra, U2 in concert, "Gosford Park" with less dialogue.

27. NBA has Jason Kidd, Jason Williams and Jayson Williams; NCAA has only the one Jason Williams, and even him not for long.
Jason Kidd is the league MVP, because he can run and pass like he's got eyes in the back of his head. Jason Williams, "White Chocolate" flavor, is one of few athletes anywhere who can pull me involuntarily out of my seat, spin me around and make me say, "Ooo-oo-wee!" because of something inspired he has done with the rock on-court. Jayson Williams is real drama -- sometimes life is just like "Training Day," isn't it? -- something fur us to dissect between games. Jayson is not even that bad a guy. But good drama/fiction is when good people do bad things and bad people do good things. Life is not as black and white as we and the NCAA make it.

Welcome to the show, NCAA's Jason Williams. Here are the instructions to the coffee machine.

28. NBA has Jazz in Utah; NCAA hides its pep bands.
Mailman & Stock & Jerry Sloan. The best recurring roles ever. You might have missed the "Seinfeld" era. You might have missed the "Friends" era. You might have missed the "ER" era. You might be missing the "Everybody Loves Raymond" era (I know I am) or the reality shows Like "Survivor" era (I am, II). But you didn't miss the Stockton/Malone era. It circumscribed them all. Been running forever.

John Stockton & Karl Malone
The tandem of John Stockton and Karl Malone has given the NBA continuity.
It's "Cats" in short pants -- very short pants, in Stock's case. They refuse to lose or be canceled. Uncaring players don't stick anymore? Well, is 20 years and three b-ball generations sticking around? They're still beating people. They've adjusted to other teams zoning their high-screen and roll. So now we have the added drama of these codgers trying to beat out Hip-Hopping Seriously Hopping Artful Dodgers from the Clip Joint for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.

By contrast, the NCAA has a new group of human sacrifices not unlike Kevin Ross every year. The constant is the name on the front not the back of the jerseys. The enthusiastic pep bands, which sort of let you know this is college and students are involved, are ignored. Hampton's pep band turned the MCI Center all the way out and CBS did its best to ignore this fine spectacle in the first round. Instead, CBS gives endless looping of network show promos and leaden "in-studio analysis" that makes us cry out for Dickie V.

Dickie V is only one guy, and he can't be everywhere -- but he's the one guy who makes it all seem exciting, even if it's January and conference play just started. Even Dickie V., was an old NBA guy, once. I'll never forget him and his beetling brows and Coke-bottle glasses, living and dying (mostly the latter) with each Pistons' loss, as the late, laconic Leon the Barber, the world's best heckler, cut him, Terry Tyler and John Long three new ones in old Cobo.

Give us more pep, "yutes," and talent, and less CBS droning head.

29. NBA has D. Miles & Q; NCAA wishes it did.
Gonzaga was nice, Kent State is cool, but D. Miles & Q are the bomb ...!

Ralph Wiley spent nine years at Sports Illustrated and wrote 28 cover stories on celebrity athletes. He is the author of several books, including "Best Seat in the House," with Spike Lee, "Born to Play: The Eric Davis Story," and "Serenity, A Boxing Memoir."