Why I Don’t Like Fantasy Hoops

So, this week is the week of the semi-finals in both of my fantasy football leagues. No, my team did not make the semis in either league. Thanks for asking, though. I really appreciate it.

The point of this football reference is simply to say that I’m going to miss fantasy sports until September. I often think about scratching my itch for fantasy sports by joining a fantasy basketball league. But, I did that once, and didn’t like it.

The problem with fantasy hoops is that, due to the nature of the game, mediocre guys on sh**y teams put up great numbers. On paper, mediocre guys look a lot like stars, simply because by being on the court for extended minutes on a lousy team, they compile a bunch of stats. It’s because in basketball, losing teams generally put up 85 points, knock down a few 3‘s, and pull down about 35 rebounds. That means that a few of the scrubs that those teams dressed up in a uniform that night compiled some stats. In other words, players who don’t do anything that actually makes their team competitive wind up making their fantasy owners quite happy.

Other sports are different. In baseball, guys who just show up at the park and get some playing time don’t help their fantasy owners. But, a guy who goes 2-4 with a HR makes his real team – not just his fantasy team – more likely to win the game. In football, guys who just go through the motions don’t help their fantasy owners. But, a guy who runs for 80 yards and scores a TD makes his real team – not just his fantasy team – more likely to win the game.

An illustration of how basketball is different is the game Larry Hughes had on November 6th against Cleveland. As I already blogged about, the Knicks were never in the game. But, Hughes had a few rebounds fall into his lap, picked off a few errant passes when the Cavs were playing sloppy, and knocked down a 3 when the Cavs were too busy looking at all the celebrities in the stands. The Knicks were not competitive from the beginning of the game until the last 3 minutes, but guy I was sitting next to had Hughes on his fantasy team, and was loving what he was seeing. When the final buzzer sounded, Hughes had put up 18 points, hit a 3, pulled down 5 boards, had 4 assists, and 4 steals. On paper, those are good numbers. That’s not because Larry Hughes is good, though. It’s because he got lots of minutes on a bad team.

The other reason I don’t like fantasy hoops is that the thing which distinguishes basketball players from each other is not measured by stats. It’s an attitude. It’s the ability to come through in the fourth quarter. Other sports are generally different. Sure, football and baseball have “clutch” players, and also guys who tend to disappear in the clutch. But, if you’re comparing Larry Fitzgerald to Andre Johnson, you aren’t saying “Larry has ice running through his veins in the last two minutes of a tie game.” Yet, if you’re trying to explain what makes Kobe / Wade / LeBron extraordinary, it’s their ability to put their teams on their shoulders for the last 5 minutes of a tie game, and bring it home.

The only other comparison that comes even close is a football quarterback. Tom Brady ain’t Tom Brady because of stats. (Trust me, I had him on my fantasy team this year.) He’s Tom Brady because you want to be on his team in the fourth quarter of a close game.

This post is already quite long. Usually when I talk for this long, people have either fallen asleep or walked out of the room. So I’ll wrap up. I don’t like fantasy hoops, because too many mediocre players look like stars in fantasy hoops.

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