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Luka Dončić explains why European basketball is as physically challenging as the NBA

Individuals may be more athletic in the NBA, but that doesn't mean it's easier to play in Europe. As always, the main reason behind it is the almighty dollar.
Luka Doncic in Real Madrid and Dallas Mavericks

Luka Dončić

I love basketball, but I’m starting to hate watching NBA games. It’s not the “too many threes” oldhead shtick. (Even though I would like to see less ISO, more team-oriented offense, and some physicality on defense, but that’s for another day.) My frustration with the NBA is different, and Luka Dončić captured it perfectly. 

Ads and replays with some basketball in between

The NBA is a business, and they’ve been exploiting our love of the game for a while now. I made my peace with selling every inch of the court to advertisers, adding a patch on the jersey, and even the annoying pop-up ads during free throws. But the moment the final 21 seconds of a game lasts more than 17 minutes, we officially have a problem

A Reddit user summed up those 17 minutes, and it’s truly staggering. “There were 2 timeouts, 33 substitutions, 8 fouls, 19 free throw attempts and just one field goal attempt, all over the course of more than 17 minutes of real time.

It’s not just annoying and insulting, the fact the NBA obviously doesn’t want to cut down all this nonsense because every time out, free throw, and replay is a chance to throw in a few ads. It also makes the NBA equally physically demanding as European basketball. The end of any close game in the NBA isn’t really a game. It’s a set of plays with a lot of break time in between. That’s why Luka found playing 48 minutes in the NBA isn’t that different from playing 40 minutes in Europe.

“In Europe, a timeout is one minute, and you don't have as many timeouts. Here [in the NBA], if you play a national TV game, you have a four-minute time out. You can go get a beer and come back to play.

Luka Doncic, The Old Man & The Three

Luka added the intensity in the NBA is higher, primarily because players are dominant athletically on an individual level. But when you consider how many breaks in the game you get in the NBA, “it evens out.” 

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On a personal note, I’d like to add it baffles me all other major sports somehow manage to start exactly at the time scheduled, yet this mythical ability seems to escape NBA games. 

Easier to score in the NBA

This isn’t the first comment Luka made that raised a lot of eyebrows in the States. Several years ago, Dončić was asked how come his scoring so quickly went significantly up in the NBA compared to Europe. Luka’s answer was simple - it’s easy to score in the NBA

“Here in the NBA, it’s easier to score compared to Europe, of course. In Europe, the court is smaller, and here there is the defensive three seconds rule. I think it’s easier to score here.”

Luka Dončić, The Washington Post

So after explaining that while NBA players are undoubtedly more athletic, the game isn’t necessarily more physically demanding compared to Europe, JJ Redick asked Luka what other differences he noticed. 

European basketball is more team basketball, more tactical. The court is smaller, fouls are different, the rules are different and you have less time,” Dončić answered.In the NBA, you have guys that are impossible to guard - that’s why it’s tougher to play in the NBA. I said scoring is easier in the NBA because of the different rules, space [court size] and time. “ 

Players are definitely better in the NBA, but people who don’t play the game underappreciated how much NBA rules favor the offense. Maybe that’s why Luka seemed to have been in better cardio shape in Europe than in the NBA. 

He knows there’s more a lot chilling than playing in the NBA compared to La Liga or Euroleague. I guess it’s the curse of being so successful - the money is too tempting to say no to. If we continue like this, we’ll soon have “the fourth quarter brought to you by yet another pick up truck.”

Food, cars, phones, insurance, and some basketball in between. 

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