Ever Hear, “He Sucks!”
By Christopher Doyle
Ever hear that an NBA player “sucks” from someone you know, perhaps at a sports bar while watching the game? Either way, someone somewhere has said it or heard it before, I know I’m guilty. So here is the deal; it’s usually frustration speaking, but some people do think these professionals suck. I’ve personally heard many players claim that they could “cook” an NBA player if given a chance, while bold, it’s also unlikely. Do you know how many people play basketball in the United States? Do you know how many men are playing Division 1 basketball? Do you know how many men are playing in the streets in the United States? So again, it’s unlikely.
Basketball is the third most played sport in the United States behind Baseball and Football; it is the most casually played sport in America. There are a considerable amount of basketball courts in almost every major city; you’ll find parks with basketball courts throughout small towns, and through the south, you’ll seem to find courts at church. Pick-up basketball is a beautiful thing to an inner city kid, or you know, somebody from Hoosier land. Pick-up is when a bunch of men/women get together at the local court or park and duke it out. Games can range from 2 on 2 to 5 on 5, and play anywhere from 7 to 21 points. Besides soccer, no other sport compares to casual pick-up basketball games in the United States. Football is the second most popular sport in the United States; approximately 1,085,272 students played football in the U.S. during 2015-16, only 414,048 played pick up football during those years.
Now back to basketball, during 2015-16, roughly 26 million people in the U.S. played basketball, of those 26 million, 4.1 million played organized basketball or men’s leagues, 5.8 million played for their school and college, and for the finale; 15.5 million people played pick-up basketball in the United States. That seems to be just a tad bit higher than football.
The NBA holds the best players in the world, not the country, but the world. I’m sure some of the people you might be playing with at the local rec centers might even be excellent, but let’s face it, they’re not NBA good. The NBA currently has limited employment with only 450 spots, of those 450 spots, only 390 players are active, what do I mean by active? Active players are players that play in the game. When a player doesn’t have a good game or a good season, it’s natural to say that player isn’t good, so let’s put this into perspective. I told you 26 million Americans play basketball, 15.5 which play pick up, so that guy that crosses people up and gets the occasional breakaway dunk at the park might not even be good enough to play with the 5.8 million students playing college basketball. In that regards, the average basketball player has a 5 in 400,000 chance of playing D1, and a 3 in 10,000 chance of being drafted in the NBA, that’s the equivalent of getting a four of a kind in poker, in which is a 0.03% chance. I’m not saying you can never make the NBA, but the odds are stacked against the ordinary player, and that’s why the NBA is the NBA.
If you’re still in doubt, or you just one of those people who hate numbers, let me explain it in a different way. Rafer Alston AKA Skip 2 My Lou, was a fantastic basketball player, almost god-like with his unnatural ball handling skills and cocky demeanor. Skip was a streetball living legend during high school, and as of today, his name still reigns across the world as one of street ball’s greatest. Never the less, when entering the NBA, he was just plain old Rafer Alston from Queens. As I said earlier making the NBA is hard, but it’s also hard to play Division 1 basketball, even for some people that are great. Skip was a star at Cardoza High School in Queens, and during his time there in the earlier 90’s he was ranked as one the best point guards in New York City along Stephon Marbury. People in every borough new Skip, from Rucker Park to the parks in Jersey City. Skip would dazzle and hurt contenders as he skipped his way down the court before embarrassing you in front of the crowd, and with all this, no scholarship was granted for the AND 1 legend. Rafer attended two community colleges before getting his opportunity to play at Fresno State. During his community college days he struggled to adjust from the street game to the organized play, but all in all, he made sure there was an impression that would catch someone’s eye, and it did. After playing at Fresno State for his senior year, he elected to enter the NBA Draft. With all his success, with all his hard work and fame from around the country, Alston was still drafted in the second round, 39th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks. It didn’t end there for Skip 2 My Lou. Skip found himself benched as the 12th man on the roster, and it stayed that way past his rookie season. During his second season in the NBA, he only played 37 games out of 82 and averaged only 7.2 minutes. Rafer would continue to struggle to adjust from the street game to pro game, and even with all his skill and wit, he found himself turning over the ball. It wasn’t until he got traded to the Toronto Raptors that he got time on the court, and later on found himself as a starter for the watered down Miami Heat. My point is Rafer Alston was a well-known name, he was one of the best talents in one of biggest basketball cities in the world and struggled to get to a D1 level.
There is a reason why NBA players are NBA players, and there is a reason D1 players play D1. These players are great! If you’re in the NBA, last man on the bench or not, more than likely during high school or college you were the best player in the city, or maybe the state for that matter. I think the casual basketball player needs to understand that no NBA player “sucks,” and that’s because they are in the NBA. You should think of it like this, maybe the player you’re calling sucky isn’t lacking talent, perhaps the player you’re comparing him to is just on another level.