I was, for some odd reason, watching Stephen A. Smith's "Quite Frankly" on ESPN two nights ago when an interesting segment came on. Barry Melrose was asked to debate why he thinks hockey is better than basketball.
Basically, Barry Melrose didn't have a chance on the show. Smith pointed to the fact that the NBA has LeBron James, Gilbert Arenas, Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, etc. etc. etc. and all the NHL had was Sidney Crosby with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Now forget about the fact that there are about 15 other young stars in the NHL that Stephen A. Smith ignorantly chose to ignore. The way in which he said, "And don't even get me started on how bad the Pittsburgh Penguins are!!" was insane. What? Did he just conclude that since the Pens are a bad team Sidney Crosby can't be good for the NHL? Is he a complete moron? Well, yeah he is. But has he realized that LeBron James' Cavaliers have stunk up until this year when they finally were able to make the playoffs? Wait and see where the Pens are in 3 years and see where Sidney Crosby is then.
Nonetheless, the debate is an interesting one if you don't have mullet head Barry Melrose and the ignorant Stephen A. "I love basketball and nothing else" Smith arguing on each side. I'm biased, so I'll easily conclude that hockey is better, but let's take a look into the topic deeper.
Basketball is on ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, and ABC. The market for basketball is all over TV and the average fan can easily watch their games. Hockey is on....the outdoor life network? I've been against this TV contract from the get go. How can you expect to get back your fan base when about 75% of homes in America don't even get OLN? Oh, and why the hell is hockey on the outdoor channel channel anyways? What's next, The NHL on Food TV with hosts Emeril and Rachel Ray?
Anyone who understands both the games of basketball and hockey cannot honestly admit to me that a hockey game is any less interesting than an NBA game. I can sit down and watch an NBA game if I feel like it, but an NHL game is much more interesting. You'll have some basketball fans out there saying, "Man, hockey is nothing but a bunch of fighting!" to which my reply is, "have you ever even watched an NHL game?" I respect the opinions of those who understand both sports and have watched both sports. However, what I can't stand are people like Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith saying hockey stinks having never watched a single period of hockey. I hate that more than anything.
Stars in the game:
This argument is difficult. If we are talking about who we see on TV all the time and people that we know, most will give the edge to the NBA. However, the great NHL players are some of the most talented and remarkable athletes in the world. I will give the nod to the NBA here only because I truly believe NBA players are also some of the most talented and amazing athletes in the world. This isn't to take anything away from hockey players, I just feel the stars of the NBA are all over the TV world and are amazing athletes as well. The athleticism factor is a tie, but when talking about marketability, the NBA wins hands down....stupid ass OLN!
Tougher Championship to win:
I'm sorry, but when I see on ESPN how Dwayne Wade is missing a game because of a bad pinky finger, I laugh. I realize shooting the basketball requires all fingers, but what pansies. Hockey players play through any and all injuries. In the playoffs, players are battered, tired, beat up and injured...and they play through it all. It's an absolute grind to win 16 high-intensity NHL games to win the Stanley Cup. This isn't to discredit the NBA's road to the championship, it's just to say that the road in the NHL is much tougher.
Stephen A. Smith ripped on the NHL because their "supposed best team the Detroit Red Wings" were ousted in the first round of the playoffs and how much of a joke that was. I say, I think that's awesome. Championships and great teams aren't determined after an 82 game regular season schedule. This isn't NCAA Football. The playoffs are part of the NHL's season. As is the NBA's. If you can't win in the first round of a playoff series even if you finished first in points in the regular season, then you weren't durable enough or you just didn't work hard enough to win a title. Parity wasn't really possible two years ago in the "Look out we're headed down the same road as baseball" era of the NHL. But with a salary cap, the Stanley Cup is up for grabs. The NBA has some parity, to an extent, but upsets are more likely in the NHL because home ice advantage isn't as much a factor in hockey as is home court advantage in basketball. The away team in the NBA rarely wins on the road, putting all it's emphasis on how well you do in the regular season.
All in all, you have to give the NBA some credit. I would not argue with anyone who tells me NBA players are more athletic and talented, because I think it's very close. And while the TV ratings easily go to the NBA, the NHL has a much faster, energized and passionate sport. People who say they can't see the puck are either Stevie Wonder, old, or people who don't even want to watch the game so they make up the most stupid argument against the sport. I believe hockey is a much better sport. Hey ignorant basketball fans, you're sport isn't hands down better than the NHL and hockey isn't hard to understand. Hey ignorant hockey fans, while you rip on the NBA for being all over TV and how that's all ESPN plays...at least their own TV. Oh wait, The NHL is on right after "How to shoot a deer at night". GREAT!