I just moved into a new house over the summer, which means that my kids are attending new schools. On the first day of school, I walked them to a bus stop where they were surrounded by relative strangers -- I nudged them to go and start trying to make friends. In the meantime, I, too, was surrounded by a group of parents whom I had never met. As I tried to follow the advice that I gave my kids about meeting new people, I slid over to a group of fathers who were in mid-conversation. This is what I heard:
"I don't care, I'm still taking Zeke at No. 2. No way the Cowboys throw this season away -- they're paying him."
"Yeah, but what about Melvin Gordon? I don't think the Chargers are going to budge, so I'm not drafting him at all, I don't care how far he falls."
"I'm taking Mahomes in the first, I don't care if he's a QB. He's guaranteed points, money in the bank, and I want it!"
And suddenly, I knew that I was home. If this group of fathers were bonding over fantasy football, I knew that we'd get along just fine. I jumped in with my takes, and the next thing you know, we were inviting each other over to watch games together once the season starts.
Fantasy football is everywhere. People love playing, and it gives us a common ground to actively participate in the joys, pains and sometimes esoterica of our shared sports pastime.
But that begs the question: Why aren't more fantasy football players taking part in fantasy basketball leagues?
Fantasy basketball shares all of the major elements that people love about fantasy football: active agency, building teams that give you a reason to watch and care about the results of every game, creating conversation pieces that a group of friends (or strangers) can bond over, and generating the perfect trash-talking opportunities and chances to show that you are secretly a sports expert with tangible rewards for doing a good job.
Let's dig into this some more reasons why fantasy football players like you will love fantasy basketball if you just choose the right game style and give it a try.
I've been talking with lots of different people, from the fathers in my neighborhood to Uber drivers to my NBA-covering colleagues at ESPN. Here are some of their objections for why they thought they wouldn't like fantasy basketball, and my answers as to why they won't just like fantasy hoops ... they'll love it!
"Every year, the absolute highlight of my year is when I get together with my buddies for our fantasy football draft. We don't get to see each other so much anymore, but for the draft each year, we rotate hosts and have each other over. We drink, we talk a crazy amount of junk, and we pick our fantasy squads for the year. It's great, but by the next week, I'm wishing that we could do it all over again."
Drafting is one of the most fun things to do in fantasy sports. Whether you get together with old friends and draft live on a big draft board or just log in to draft online with a bunch of strangers, there's just nothing like going into a draft with your own strategy, your own list of sleepers and busts and your own confidence that you know it all and are about to absolutely dominate the game with your genius.
It's a unique feeling in sports, even in fantasy sports, and by adding fantasy basketball to your repertoire, you get to experience the fun of drafting season twice as often.
To address the statement above, by playing fantasy basketball, you can do it all over again!
"Man, I don't even like the Browns or Rams, but I'm all-in on this game! I'm playing against Robert Woods tonight, and if he gets 30 more yards in the second half tonight I'm cooked. So I'm staring a hole in the TV screen and willing him to drop every pass!"
"I love the NBA, but I don't even really pay attention until it gets to the playoffs. That's when the games really matter."
I grouped these two together, because they are two sides of the same coin. Another of the great elements of fantasy sports is that, because you have active agency for or against so many players across different teams, just about every game is personally important to you in a way that the games just wouldn't be otherwise. The great thing is that this draws you further into the sport itself, and you end up watching and caring about the outcome of so many different games that you really get the most out of a given season.
While this is true for football, it is even more true in a long season like the NBA. If you play fantasy basketball, it engages you in the NBA season from the first game until the last, giving you a reason to really care about a random game in mid-week January that you otherwise might not have even paid attention to. Now, because someone on your team is playing in that game, you're actually energized to kick back after dinner and check out a half of that game on TV while you wind down for the day.
"I like how football is finite. Like, each week is an event I can celebrate ... every Sunday feels kinda like Christmas. Then, after the Monday night game, I can recharge and don't have to worry about it again till the next weekend."
"Basketball and baseball are just too much, man. I don't want to lose my league just because I can't be online and locked in all day every day for six months. I need to be able to step away."
One of the common misconceptions about fantasy basketball is that you have to do daily-transaction, rotisserie-style leagues in which you have to be locked in all day every day to keep up with every breaking element of every game to keep your fantasy team up to date.
That just isn't true!
You can play in those types of leagues if you want, and I have absolutely loved doing so through the years. Daily transaction, rotisserie and roto head-to-head leagues have given me entire seasons of joy, where I really immersed myself in the NBA and just lived it to the fullest. I'd come home every evening and turn on my League Pass at 7 p.m. and watch until the last West Coast game went off around 1 a.m.. And it was glorious!
However, I was also single and in grad school at the time, so I had the time and energy to do that. And my friends were at the same place in life, so our fantasy leagues were lit!
These days we're all married, most have kids and at times multiple jobs. We don't have the same amount of time or energy for pastimes that we had in our bachelor days, but we still love fantasy hoops. So now, we play weekly transaction, points-based fantasy basketball. It's just as fun, but it requires a much lower time commitment in order to play and win.
It is, dare I say it, much like fantasy football!
The points scoring system for fantasy basketball mixes elements like points scored, rebounds and assists into one fantasy score in a similar fashion to the way that fantasy football mixes yards, receptions and touchdowns to do the same. And in weekly transaction leagues, you can pick up free agents and finalize your lineup only once per week, usually on either Sunday or Monday. That way, even if you don't pay attention during the week at all, you can still check in and make your lineup changes once and then sit back and do nothing but enjoy the game action for the week with no added pressure ... just like you do in fantasy football.
"The NFL is just more fun to watch, because there's more parity. Outside of the Patriots, I know that every season there might be a different team standing at the end of the campaign. In the NBA, I know before the season starts that the Warriors are going to win every year. What fun is that?"
"I don't like how the edge isn't there anymore. Back in the day, there were real rivalries where guys didn't like each other. Now, all the players are friends and they end up just teaming up to make superteams. Why should I care if some superteam wins?"
I'm pairing these two statements, the second of which came courtesy of my Uber driver, because this season in the NBA ...
This season right here?
This season right here, dog? Oh, it's about to be on!
The NBA is going crazy right now. I wrote last year that the 2018-19 season shaped up to be one of the best seasons ever ... and this season looks poised to top it!
Suddenly, there are at least 10 teams and possibly more who could legitimately contend for the NBA title this season, a level of parity at the top that is completely unheard of. The Lakers and Clippers both sport multiple MVP-caliber players as they wage the war for Los Angeles, with both King James and Kawhi vying to cement their legacies by leading their third different teams, respectively, to the NBA promised land
Last season's NBA MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, won after a season of athletic freakiness that we rarely, if ever see. Then, in the offseason, he made the statement that he's only like 60% as good as he could be ... and he's right!
The 76ers came within a four-bounce buzzer beater of potentially competing for the championship last season, and they responded this season by rolling out the biggest starting lineup I've ever seen -- with an average height of 6-foot-10 and no player shorter than 6-foot-6. Bananas!
Two of the last three MVPs have teamed up in Houston (Russell Westbrook and James Harden), and almost nobody has them as the championship favorites. In fact, when I told one of my editor friends that I saw the Rockets as monsters this season, he scoffed, predicted them to win 45 games and miss the playoffs, and he told me that if I thought they would be good I might have to turn in my "basketball expert" card. Bananas!
Bobby Marks is on record saying that the juggernaut Warriors, who won a championship and won 73 games before Durant ever arrived, would miss the playoffs outright this season after playing in five finals in a row and winning three chips. However, I could very easily see them taking home the chip again this season under the return to prominence of one of the most dynamic duos in NBA history in Stephen Curry and Draymond Green.
I haven't even mentioned contenders fronted by NBA stars like the Nuggets, led by a center who could legitimately average a triple-double (Nikola Jokic). Nor have I mentioned the Trail Blazers led by best rapper in the NBA (Damian Lillard); the Celtics led by Kemba Walker, who replaces Kyrie Irving, who is with an interesting Nets team; Karl-Anthony Towns, whom I project as this season's fantasy basketball rotisserie king, and who could quietly sneak into the NBA MVP discussion; and the dawn of Zion Williamson, which promises to be worth getting your popcorn ready.
What is not to love about the NBA this season, where more so than any time in my life I feel that anything could happen?!
And ultimately, that's the point. The NBA is at a great place right now, full of major storylines and across-the-board action. And if you play fantasy basketball during this historic season, you'll be that much more locked in and get to be that much more a part of what promises to be an outstanding season.
There are multiple ways to play fantasy basketball, which gives you the opportunity to find the style that suits you best. You can immerse yourself into a daily league and never have any mid-week lulls in your sports-viewing options the way that you do with the NFL, or you can play a weekly transaction points league with a game style very similar to the fantasy football that you already love.
Either way, come give fantasy basketball a try!