The Strategy of Basketball
I loved to play basketball when I was younger. Though I wasn’t very good at it. My size and skill earned me the nickname “handicap” but I still enjoyed to play. Some of my fondest memories growing up centered around playing pick up basketball at the Genova house—games like 2 on 2, elimination, and 21 were summer vacation standbys when the sun was out, the days were long and the cicadas were loud.
But I have come to realize I do not like the game of basketball very much anymore. At 6’4″ tall I am sure I would be a rebound threat, but now I find the game boring. My life in advertising constantly has me thinking about how strategy can help the brand of my clients. How creative that represents the products or services of brands can alter perceptions. Or at least that’s the intent. For me, basketball is flawed in its strategy. Now, I am not taking about the game itself. Certainly, there is plenty of strategy that is executed throughout the course of a game. The coach draws up the plays, the point guard executes, picks are set, shots are made and the defense adjusts. What I am talking about is the fundamental strategy of the game.
Scoring is expected, and a guarantee.
For instance, the other major sports of baseball, football, hockey and soccer all follow a different strategy. You are not expected to score. Yes, by nature of sport, I guess you could say I do expect them to score, but it’s certainly not a guarantee. So maybe it’s more about the guarantee than the expectation. One spring evening while living in Atlanta, I saw John Smotlz of the Atlanta Braves masterfully pitch around hitters in a scoreless tie. The Braves finally won that game 1-0 in the late innings. And when the Braves finally scored the crowd erupted in celebration that shook the foundation of Turner Field.
In football I’d much rather see a high scoring game, but I live in upstate NY and this is Buffalo Bills country, where scoring is certainly not a guarantee. But when the Bills do score, the freezing fans at Ralph Wilson Stadium Stadium rise to their feet and cheer as one. Playoff hockey or World Cup soccer fans understand this. When the athletes score, there’s a massive celebration. The fans jump, raise their hands, hug. The athletes jump, raise their hands, hug. Again, because while they are expected to score it’s certainly not a guarantee.
Basketball’s one exception is March Madness. College Basketball, with some minor exceptions in rule differences, is essentially the same as the NBA. However, the NCAA tournament is structured win or go home. There is tension in every game. Cinderella’s are born and rivalries renewed. Every possession could mean the difference of advancing to the next round or boarding a plane back home…. just ask Northern Iowa. And winning the tournament is no guarantee either… just ask top seed Kansas. After the NCAA crowns it’s National Champion, April comes and it’s back to boring ‘ol NBA basketball.
I used to play basketball when I was younger. And looking back on it now, I know why…making baskets for me was never a guarantee.