I can sum up the last 15-plus years of basketball in South Africa: corruption, nepotism, fat cats, back door deals, misappropriation of funds allocated, egos, lies, lawsuits, poor management skills, poor leadership traits from exco members and, believe me when I tell you this, the list goes on and on.
Ask any true “baller” about the state of basketball in South Africa and be prepared for a sit-down session, because there is a lot of baggage to be offloaded.
It is hard to explain the passion, the love for the game and the burning desire just to be able to put a leather ball in your hand which “ballers” have. Once the love for the game has bitten, it is hard not to get caught up in the hype, the excitement, the fashion, the rivalry between teams with size, skill and shooting ability.
As a scientist, I have the privilege of coaching many sporting codes and I truly understand what each sport’s physical, mental, and performance needs are, but there is one sport that I would say is the king of them all with regards to how tough it really is, and you have guessed it… basketball.
Calm down, I know there is rugby and American football out there but hear me out. All sports require that you be fit, so that is a given. Rugby and American football requires you to have muscle size and short range explosive contact and with few runs except for the wings. Football on the other hand requires you to be lean and mean and have an incredible amount of endurance.
Basketball on the other hand is a very demanding sport. You are required as an athlete to sprint down the court and fight for positioning while running plays to try find an opportunity to score. Then you are required to sprint back to defence to defend against some of the biggest monsters you have ever seen.
I am 1.95m and when I say some of these players are bigger than me, that is what you have to stop penetrating the “key” scoring area. If you manage to get that right, then you still have to keep a watchful eye on four other players trying to cut through and “dunk on your face”, a terminology used by a player dunking over another player, the ultimate belittling of an attacker on a defender.
If you manage to survive through great team defence, you still have to put your body on the line when your opponent decides to drive straight to the basket. Like a live kamakaze pilot he drives straight to the hoop and if you don’t manage to steal the ball on his first dribble, you have to hold your position without moving otherwise he gets the foul on you. Sounds easy, right?
You put yourself on a railway track and then try stopping the freight train.
When the dust settles from all the action, the players have to pick up from where their opponents left off and get back on the attack. Without boring you with calculations, top NBA basketball teams at high intensity on average sprint 20m, free throw to free throw which is approximately 105 times during a match.
Add the plays, add the physicality and then add the mental strength needed to keep composure. For this reason I would say basketball is the king of human performance sports. If you don’t believe me, find a local court and try out basketball for yourself. The bug just might bite.
Keep a look out for my article later this month on the national basketball league. It is officially starting this week and I will be bringing you some inside scoops. If you have a burning question about the league, Tweet me on twitter SeanVStaden.
v Sean is a sports scientist and director of Advanced Sports Performance. Share your comments and opinions on his blog.advancedsp.co.za. Follow him on Twitter: @SeanVStaden or visit my website www.advancedsp.co.za.