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Six NBA Pet Peeves

Ben Dowsett gives his list of annoying things NBA players, coaches, refs and commentators routinely do.



The NBA is amazing. Those of us on the periphery get to routinely view (and interview) people who perform daily feats of human athleticism most of us couldn’t fathom in our wildest dreams. The average 2015 fan can watch any game they like for a yearly pittance, and myriad analysis – from the legitimate to the absurd, and everything in between – is readily available at the push of a button. The players themselves get a mostly solid end as well, paid typically well within the seven-figure range and often treated like gods while playing a game they love. The league is on the rise both domestically and internationally, with a major influx of cash due in just over a year. Across the board, there’s very little right for any of us to legitimately complain about.

With that well understood, however, even the best things in life have a few available nits to be picked and the greatest sports league in the world is no exception. Don’t you have a few small gripes with some players, coaches, referees or commentators? Without further ado, here is one cynic’s list of NBA pet peeves. We’ll leave off certain obvious ones that the public consciousness is already well aware of – think long contested twos or flops on either end – and focus on more specific things. Enjoy!

Oh look, an offensive board. Quick, better shoot it!

This one tops the list, and could be on here three or four times. To this eye, it’s easily the worst and least understandable on-court habit in the league. A guy does a great job muscling up for position, out-hustles his mark, comes up with an extra possession for his team… and immediately jacks up an unbelievably bad shot. He’s typically off-balance, surrounded by multiple defenders after their pursuit of the rebound, and worst of all has a brand new 24-second shot clock he’s chosen to blatantly ignore.

Basketball Insiders’ own Nate Duncan once told me his high school coach considered the right to take an offensive board back up immediately to be a reward for crashing the glass effectively in the first place. High school coaches: please stop teaching this. The phrase “two wrongs don’t make a right” has a flip side – one good basketball play doesn’t count as a reprieve for a negative one moments later. The idea of scoring as a “glamorous” part of the game while things like “hustle” and “grit” are considered laborious tasks represents likely the worst attitude in the game of basketball, and incentivizes guys to often do things that aren’t in the best interests of their team. Kick the ball out if the easy layup isn’t there. It’s that simple.

Show some conviction, stripes!

Anyone who watches regular NBA games has seen this little bit of referee hedging: a guy takes the ball strong to the rack, there’s enough contact to make it a debatable call, and the offensive player flails his arms about and the ball ends up out of bounds, clearly off the shooter. But the ref, who stood under five feet away at the time, waffles on the call; they don’t want to give a questionable foul and free-throws, but don’t want to let the defensive player entirely off the hook either, so instead they middle the two and award possession back to the offensive team despite the ball clearly going off the offense.

No one likes a fence-sitter, stripes! Did the defender make good use of contact as allowed by the rules of the league? Great, reward him! Did he take it too far and commit a foul? Great, call the foul! From a practical standpoint, all this behavior does is encourage offensive players to flail and flop around even more; their potential positive outcomes go way up if they know all they have to do is create contact of any kind and, at the very worst, their team will retain possession.

The issue has been magnified in the last couple years at the end of close games by the league’s rule allowing a video review for ball possession within the final two minutes. The rule doesn’t allow for a review of a potential foul (there’s been clamoring for an alteration here for this exact reason), meaning we get to watch at least 10 replays of the same missed foul call while the defensive team is rewarded by technology. Even a rule change here wouldn’t necessarily eliminate the practice from the other 46 minutes of a given game, though, and here’s hoping the league makes it a point of emphasis one of these years. It worked with flopping, after all. Wait….

Making matters worse

What’s with the frequent obsession of an offensive player who commits a turnover with running himself miles out of position in a feeble attempt to steal the ball back right away? Like our first item, it seems to be an unavoidable compulsion for many NBA players and one that makes just as little sense. Why compound a mistake you already made with another?

Most often, the player in question is rashly pursuing a wildly unlikely outcome while putting his team at a disadvantage, and often a major one – a number of these plays are off top-of-the-key turnovers and guys end up committing clear-path fouls that leave their team in an even worse position than simply allowing a dunk. Just stop and think for a second, shelve your lazy tendencies, and sprint back to try and atone for your sin rather than immediately committing another.

The “And-one!” crew

This one doesn’t need much explanation. We all know about this plague that’s swept the league for years and it’s likely never changing. But guys, c’mon. We’re lessening the value of a really fun phrase by yelling it every time we take a shot, whether or not a) the shot has even the slightest chance of going in, or b) there was any contact with a defender whatsoever. Tone it down a notch, fellas.

Clueless commentators

For my day job, I work as a web content producer at a major news station. Part of my responsibility is knowing the names of everyone in the station, from TV anchors to suits to assignment desk lead-chasers. I’m also naturally expected to be cognizant and aware of local happenings and prominent local figures. This is on top of a number of other technical responsibilities and, of course, actual writing, for all of which I’m compensated reasonably, I feel.

Why, then, are broadcasters and color commentators who are paid well in excess of 10 times my yearly salary allowed to regularly operate without doing basic research on the game or team they’re covering? It seems uneven, to me.

The worst is a lack of simple name recognition and pronunciation, of course. If I can spend five minutes one day back in 2014 memorizing how to say “Giannis Antetokounmpo” correctly, it can’t be that tall a task. This isn’t the NFL or NHL with 20-plus deep rosters and guys fluctuating back and forth between the minors or practice squads every single day. Teams have smaller rosters, and the guys who are actually entering games frequently come in easily manageable numbers.

Talking on live air isn’t easy, and no one is insinuating as much, so certain errors are of course understandable. But if I have to hear one more time about how great the “Eenus Kanter” trade was, I might lose it on someone.

Dude, buy a hand-warmer

Closing out our list is guys who, by the third or fourth quarter of a game in which they’ve already played double-digit minutes, are still blowing into their palms every time down the floor as if they aren’t warmed up. This is a tad hard to believe for anyone who regularly attends games and sees guys shooting hours before tip-off. And at this point for many guys, especially stars who shoot a lot, it seems to be far more of a mental thing than a physical one, even to a detrimental point in a few cases.

Solution: would it be all that tough to get a hand-warming device of some sort on the bench or in the locker room? Maybe teams already have something like this I’m not aware of, but I want credit if not. This could revolutionize the game!

Really though, this is the weakest on the list (hence it being last). As a lifetime hockey player who gets his equipment on in the same order every single game (unless I played particularly poorly last game, of course), does the same stride-for-stride warmup routine after first stepping on the ice (Wayne Gretzky always missed the first shot in warmups wide right, it’s in his book), and hasn’t washed his pads since he won the state title back in 2004 (two goals in 15 seconds in the clinching game, that’s RIGHT), I can understand superstition to a fairly insane point.

Ben Dowsett is a Deputy Editor and in-depth basketball analyst based in Salt Lake City. He covers the Jazz on a credentialed basis for Basketball Insiders, and has previously appeared in the Sports Illustrated and TrueHoop Networks. He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_Dowsett.

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