The NBA is back tonight!


With only four days elapsed since the end of baseball season, tonight is the tip-off for the 2006-07 NBA season.

That’s a relief.

My preferences run to professional sports, as these are absent the hypocrisy of “amateur” games that pretend not to be about money when they obviously are about money, but hey — to each his or her own. I fully realize that most readers will be living and dying with local university basketball teams, and that’s fine.

The NBA’s just better for me. Basketball may have started in the sticks, but now it is thoroughly cosmopolitan – the urban game, fast moving, athletic but strategic. For my money, NBA players are the finest athletes in the world in terms of the strength, speed, stamina and finesse required at such a high level of performance.

I’ll be watching to see how Ben Wallace does with the Bulls, whether the Big Aristotle has another championship run in him, and if Dirk Nowitzki can bounce back from Dallas’s finals collapse against the Heat.

Along those lines, America’s recent run of disappointment in international basketball competition encourages me, because it means that the cultural diversification of the NBA will proceed apace. As one unaffected by the inanity of thoughtless patriotism (nor, for that matter, by the thoughtful variety), there can be nothing but good to come from the ever escalating global popularity of basketball.

But the NBA isn’t just about individuals, contrary to the prejudices of those who never watch the league and the tendency of network television to focus on individual match ups.

Balance, teamwork and coaching systems are necessary to build the winning squads, just as in other levels of play. San Antonio perhaps has been the best example of this for a decade or more. More recently, Phoenix has emphasized a team concept of speed and versatility, handed the ball to Steve Nash (a Canadian), and gone to the races.

It helps to have a plan, but even when the plan breaks down, the entertainment possibilities afforded by the NBA are endless.

Ray Allen’s purity of shot.
The wingspan of Tayshaun Prince.
The way that Steve Nash runs the floor.
Elton Brand and a relentless work ethic.
Clutch as redefined by Dwyane Wade.

LeBron James? If you haven’t watched the man play, you’re simply missing it. He does it all, and for once, you can believe the hype. Barring injury or misfortune, King James might prove to be the best ever. Will the Cavs put together a complementary roster to make his reign a reality?
I’ll be watching, and report back next year when the playoffs start. After all, no sense in waiting for March for madness to begin.

(Photo credit: Net cribbed)