Is It Just Me, or Is Basketball Really Boring?

Okay, I'll admit that watching Shaq at the free throw line was kind of entertaining.
Okay, I’ll admit that watching Shaq at the free throw line was kind of entertaining.

Okay, before you jump to conclusions, hear me out:

99% of basketball makes for really great TV. It’s fast-paced, it’s a team game with one-on-one matchups, every game features a number of highlights, and the athletes are often incredibly gifted, even at the college level. Plus, the whole concept of March Madness is awesome: 68 teams competing on even ground for the chance to win it all.

This should make basketball extremely entertaining, right?

I work from home now, so I technically could have watched as much March Madness as I wanted. I was way too busy to do that, but there were a few times when I thought, “Hey, let me check out what’s happening in the tournament right now.”

Every time I did this, the same thing happened: Within a few minutes of turning on the TV, I was already bored. Really bored.

The reason? Free throws.

The free throw in basketball is the equivalent of the extra point in football in terms of entertainment value, except that a basketball game regularly features 50+ free throws (compared to around 10 extra point attempts in a football game). There is nothing entertaining about a free throw. It completely interrupts the fluid, fast-paced nature of the game.

Here’s the kicker: The most exciting part of a March Madness game is the end of the game, especially if it’s close. But that’s also the part of the game that is often riddled with free throws, especially if a team is down by more than 3 points. So you take the most entertaining part of the game and mix in the least entertaining part. Hmm…

Here’s my completely unsolicited solution for free throws: Remove them from the game. If you get fouled on your way to the basket, treat it like goaltending: You automatically get 2 points (or 3 if you were beyond the arc). Play would stop and the other team would then inbound it as if you made the basket. Can you imagine how much more entertaining that would be?

I’m sure there are much bigger basketball fans out there who would disagree, but I’d like to hear your thoughts. Perhaps you don’t think the free throw is as boring or as interrupting to the game as I do. Either way, would you rather watch basketball the way it is now, or with my solution?

6 thoughts on “Is It Just Me, or Is Basketball Really Boring?”

  1. I can understand your dislike of free throws, but they’re not borderline automatic (like, say, an extra point in today’s NFL), so I personally don’t mind them.

    I personally don’t really care for basketball because the scoring is too granular. I realize it’s ridiculous to propose a “fix” to a sport adored by millions of people the world over, but humor me for a second: wouldn’t basketball be better played in sets, like tennis?

    You’d play the game in 15-minute sets. The first team to win three sets wins.

    In case of a tie at the end of a set, both teams are considered to win the set. If that gives one team three sets, then that team wins the game. If both teams tie at three sets, then play 15-minute overtimes to break the tie (which is just like how it’s done now).

    It’ll never happen, but it’s fun to think about.

    • Gil: I really like that idea. It’s similar to volleyball too–in volleyball you play up to 3 sets, and the first team to win two sets wins the match. That would make for some very entertaining basketball–you would get three game endings, which I think could make for very compelling basketball if they weren’t stopping for free throws all the time. 🙂

  2. I’m intrigued by the idea of doing away with free throws. In my opinion, it would impact more than just the flow of the game. I think it’d make a team’s bench even more important. Can you imagine how much more exhausted a basketball team would be if there were no free throws to allow them to pause for a moment (like time in the huddle in the NFL). Currently, a team with 5 great starters has a pretty good chance to beat a decent team with great depth. Your proposed change would probably turn that result on it’s head. Interesting…

    • That’s a great point about the bench. I think that could add a lot of parity to the NBA (and college basketball) since you can’t just have 5 or 6 really good players–you need to have an entire team.

  3. I used to watch highlights of of Michael Jordan when I was younger and thought what an athlete he was bit I has just tried to watch a game for the first time in full and I have been bored shirtless the games in America are too long and boring great athletes but boring games


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