1:00am

Wed November 20, 2013
Sweetness And Light

In Basketball, It's Always About What's Next

Originally published on Thu December 12, 2013 10:51 am

College basketball seems to get started sooner every year, like puberty in American children. Why does everything have to begin so early now, before you have time to get ready for it?

Things move so fast in college basketball that there are three players this year who are being called "the next LeBron James. " In the NBA, most of the talk is already about where the superstars will be next season.

Because basketball involves so few players, the hot shots are more valuable, so it's like the Kardashians — not whom they're married to now, but whom they'll be married to next.

Click on the audio link above to hear Deford's take on this issue.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The World Cup in Brazil is seven months away, still time to squeeze in an entire basketball season before that. During that season, our commentator Frank Deford points out time will pass differently in college basketball than it does in the NBA.

FRANK DEFORD, BYLINE: It's easy to miss it, because basketball starts by sort of sneaking in when most everybody is still seriously occupied with NFL Fantasy Football and the college Bowl Championship Series, which is another form of fantasy. College basketball seems to get started sooner every year, like puberty in American children. Why does everything have to begin so early now before you have time to get ready for it? Ice hockey is even worse. It began weeks ago, way before ice began. Only our presidential campaign starts earlier than the National Hockey League.

But back to basketball. Once it does get underway, college hoops and pro hoops are entirely different. College is only for the moment, the NBA for the future. College basketball is more and more similar to the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown of horseracing, where the horses can only compete for one year, as three-year-olds. In college basketball, the NBA forces the best players to be student-athletes for a year - well, the student part for maybe a semester - before the athlete part can be drafted. And so the college season is now basically decided by the human equivalent of three-year-old colts.

Things move so fast in college basketball, that this year there are three players who are being called the next LeBron James. They are Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle. But, of course, LeBron James is still LeBron James himself.

Back in the languid 20th century, we weren't in such a hurry. We had the decency not to anoint the next Michael Jordan until he'd left the building.

Now, the NBA is the other way around. Although the teams have dutifully begun playing the current season, per contract, most of the talk is where the superstars will be next season. Because basketball involves so few players, the hot shots are more valuable. So it's like the Kardashians: not whom they're married to now, but whom they'll be married to next. This is apropos, too, because the Kardashians often marry NBA players, however fleetingly.

Of course, most of the speculation in this department revolves around where the current LeBron James will decide to take his talents to next season. But several NBA teams are already being accused of wanting to lose games all season long so they'll have a better chance of being the lucky ducks who get to draft one of the next LeBron James. And you wonder why intelligent people don't pay much attention to the NBA until the last two minutes of playoff games.

Also in the news: The Atlanta Braves are tearing down their stadium because it's already an antique 17 years old. Next.

INSKEEP: Frank Deford, however, is still with us. He joins us each Wednesday. It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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