Fantasy Basketball: A Love Story

by Bryan

I play fantasy basketball. I love it. I like it far more than fantasy baseball and fantasy football. Fantasy baseball, because I play in a league that’s too cutthroat to thoroughly enjoy. Fantasy football, because fantasy football is the worst one out there.

(This is the sound of you screaming at your computer monitor.)

Allow me to explain.

I like playing fantasy sports because it allows me a direct engagement to the games without having to watch them all the time. Fantasy stats have, in effect, replaced the League Leaders section in the daily paper and the Team Statistics page from the Sunday Globe with which I grew up. Then and now, if you ask me about a player, I’ll have a pretty good idea as to how he’s playing.

Baseball is the most quantifiable sport: that’s what makes fantasy baseball, or at least the league I’m in, such a grind. There are no secrets to unearth in the day to day—everyone knows exactly how good every player is, and everyone’s just hoping to get lucky. Of course, the way to get lucky is to learn before the auction, and make your own luck, which is the inverse of how I like my fantasy sports. To that end, in the five-year history of my league only two people have won it. They’re the best at preparing, and God bless’em.

Fantasy football is the exact opposite of fantasy baseball. You can prepare all you want, and it doesn’t mean diddly poo. Randomness is the name of the game, not leastwise because the scoring system rewards things all out of whack with how they are actually valued in football. Running backs are routinely the most valuable players in fantasy football; if you were starting a franchise from scratch, you’d never pick a running back first. I stopped playing after I invented a “better” scoring system (and it is better), but still realized that I learned far more from just watching the games and obsessing over the actual stats than I did from fantasy. Football doesn’t need to be any better.

Basketball falls into a happy medium of stats and scouting. Unlike baseball, team factors play into how a player will perform. Unlike football, you can make educated guesses as to how players will progress indepedent of their team. Unlike both sports, the “standard” scoring system does a remarkably good job of capturing a player’s actual. accepted value. In baseball, the numbers determine the best players. In football, the masses do. In basketball, fantasy stats might as well be the arbiter.

To that end, every season I learn more about basketball from fantasy that I do by watching. In baseball I have the numbers, and in football I have the games. Fantasy basketball opens me up to the NBA, and that’s why I love it.