The YouTube Generation of Basketball

Photo Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

I was sitting at my nine year-old’s basketball game the other day.  He was far and away the best ball-handler on his team and at that age, he’s usually designated the point guard.  I watched him as he dribbled up and down the court, launching shots, not looking for his teammates, and tried to reason that it was simply his age combined with his coach telling him to do that – he was one of the few who was comfortable dribbling/catching the ball and then taking a good shot.

But then my mind drifted to a deeper issue and one I think we’re seeing played out before our eyes.  You see, my son rarely sits down and watches a full game of basketball.  When I was his age, I was just starting to fall in love with the game.  John Paxson’s three to clinch the 1993 Finals was the catalyst.  I started watching diligently the next season.  Michael Jordan had retired and now the Bulls were Scottie Pippen‘s team.  Scottie Pippen became my favorite player and as I began to play basketball, I started to model my game after him (minus the freakishly long arms and crazy athleticism).  I did a little bit of everything on the court, I played hard on defense, I played unselfish on offense, and I had the “point guard” mentality of trying to set guys up, even though I wasn’t the best ball-handler as I got older.  My game was a team game and I worked on all aspects of my game to become a complete player.

Fast forward to 2018 and my nine year-old:  He doesn’t watch complete games, but YouTube highlights like this one or this one.  There’s nothing wrong with watching highlights, but when that’s all you’re exposed to, you think that’s how the game is supposed to be played.  So, instead of my son developing a complete game like we tried to do in the 90s or even before in the 80s, he’s trying to launch threes, not sharing the ball and only thinking about himself, and not working on anything but shooting.  Defense is an afterthought, rebounding is optional, and this is the current culture of youth basketball in America.  Don’t believe me?  Watch Trae Young.  Trae Young is unbelievable, but he’s an offensive talent and perfectly encapsulates what I’m talking about.  Is this the next generation of basketball?

We’re entering into an era of “video game” basketball where it’s all offense, stats become inflated, and defense is no longer meaningful.  The Houston Rockets have basically made it their mission: They just launch an absurd amount of threes and that’s their strategy.  It’s not basketball.  It’s a game of chance.  I’m afraid it’s only going to get worse and more ugly.  To play that way, you have to have special types of talents.  The Warriors have the three best shooters in the NBA in Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant.  The Rockets have compiled a roster of three-point threats with James Harden, Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, Trevor Ariza, and now, Joe Johnson.  Not every team has players with these skillsets, but that’s the expectation (see: the Chicago Bulls, who fired a coach who won 64% of his games even with a franchise altering injury and the Bulls wanted to go with “pace and space” instead).

Basketball is just different now.  Blame youth basketball culture, blame YouTube, blame whatever you want, but offense reigns supreme.  The Steph Curry generation, like the Michael Jordan generation and the Allen Iverson generation before it, has changed basketball.  Time will tell if it’s for the better.

Brandon Pence is the co-founder of B2 Hoops and the editor of “The Bulls Outsider.” Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Romans 10:9: “…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

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