Slow Down the Hype Train 2: Teams

  So a week ago I was talking about how quite frequently sports fans tend to exaggerate and blow things way out of proportion, especially in calling players the “best” and comparing them to the greatest players of all-time, usually when the comparison is inappropriate.  In case you missed it, here it is.  However, we make this mistake with more than just players; we do it with entire teams.  Here are some more examples of why we need to Slow Down the Hype Train.

     Let’s take a look at the Philadelphia 76ers, the team that couldn’t win a game.  They started the season with 17 consecutive losses, and when a team loses that many games in a row, everyone starts wondering,”will they ever win again?”  Herein lies the issue.  There were seriously people that thought the team would ranked 82 games and go winless, or at least have the worst record ever.  There were even many that claimed that they would lose to the University of Kentucky.  Man does that get me fired up.
     Now where are they?  The team currently stands at 12-41, meaning they’ve gone 12-24 since their horrendous start, winning one game out of every three.  That’s not horrible.  Sure it’s not good, but that’s usually good for not being one of the five worst teams in the league.  Even with their 17-loss start, they still have a better overall record than the Timberwolves and Knicks.  How can you call them worse than a college team when they’re not even the worst NBA team?
     I get really angry whenever someone tries to call a college team better than a professional one.  It’s happened in basketball as well as in football, where over the last few years people have questioned if Alabama would beat the Jaguars or the Raiders or Bucs, depending on who was the league’s worst team that particular year.  I want to very quickly respond to these questions.  There is no college team better than a pro team.  Period.
     Could a college team feasibly beat a professional one?  Of course.  Neil Paine of Fivethiryeight does a good job of summing up my points here:  The main idea is that while any team can get lucky and beat a better one (upsets happen all the time), especially in basketball where any one player getting a hot hand can drastically increase his team’s odds of winning, over the long haul any professional team would win a large majority of games against college teams because only the very best college players make it into the pros.  Over the last five years, 19 Kentucky players have been drafted into the NBA, or 4.8 a year, which we’ll call five.  So Kentucky usually has about five NBA caliber players.  An NBA team has 12, and they’ve all proven themselves in college and have had additional years of experience, training, and maturation in the NBA, along with playing more frequently and playing much, much higher levels of competition.  That’s what Kentucky would be going up against.  Alabama football has had 37 players drafted per year, so for them we’re talking 7.6 pro-level players up against 53, again with even more conditioning and experience.  It’s a tough task for anyone, that’s why its the pros.  It’s why they make so much money.
     As far as calling teams the best ever, here’s my main rule: don’t do it while the team is still playing games.  It shouldn’t be hard to understand why.  If you want to compare a team to the best of all-time, you have to wait until their season is over to really be able to gauge how good they are.  If Michael Jordan’s 1995-96 Bulls are considered by many to be the best NBA team ever.  They are the only team to win 70 games in a season, going 72-10, and 15-3 in the playoffs, with the season culminating in Jordan’s fourth ring.  The team featured three Hall of Famers (Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman), possibly the greatest coach ever in Phil Jackson.  However, if they didn’t win the championship, their accomplishments would not be seen in the same light.  No team can be the best ever if they don’t even win the championship in that season.
     Going back to Kentucky, a lot of people have been calling them the greatest college basketball team ever.  They have some good reason to believe that this may be possible.  The team has at least six or seven for sure draft picks next year, and is an undefeated 26-0 currently.  If they become the first team to have a perfect 40-0 year, they would have a pretty strong case to being the best team ever.  But that hasn’t happened yet, and until it does, we can’t give them that accolade.  They’ve been taken down to the wire several times in SEC play, including overtime twice, so they haven’t been dominant every game.  It’s not that hard to see them slipping up.
     Just as I stated in part 1, I have no issue with people getting fired up about teams that are really good.  I simply want everyone to being reasonable with the claims they make, and not to blow things too out of proportion.  It’s usually best to make judgments after you have all the facts.

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