The debate about which sport produces the best all-round athletes is an ongoing one, which I imagine will never reach a definitive answer. There are many sports that are thrown into the mix, each with its unique set of skills that create an all-round athlete. However, one sport that always seems to be considered is basketball due to the size, strength and endurance the players all seem to have. So what separates basketball from other sports in this era?
First is the variety of skill sets that are required to be successful in the sport. The ability to run, jump, pass and shoot are all key to being a good player. Other sports such as American football and tennis perhaps have more specific requirements, thus not creating the all-round athlete. Within a basketball match, in which teams only consist of five players, each player must possess the ability to perform all skills equally well, therefore creating stronger, faster and more skilful players everywhere on the court.
Secondly, the ability to jump in basketball is a key one. Plenty of key information about an athlete such as their power, pace and balance can be gained from their ability to jump. Not only do all basketball players have the immense ability to jump very high, they also need the skill level and quickness of thought to control the ball and dodge blockers while in the air. These are skills unique to basketball, but ones that show a complete athlete due to the pace, power and precision required.
Another key attribute that almost any top athlete must have is endurance and the ability to perform at their best right until the end of a game. A basketball match lasts 48 minutes with the clock stopping for any break in play. Within this time the players are constantly sprinting back and forth on the court as well as having to jump, pass and maintain communication with other players. In the last minutes of any game it is vital to maintain focus and still perform with an extremely high skill level. Because of this, basketball players require huge amounts of endurance both mentally and physically.
Other sports that put forward a strong case for requiring the best all-round athletes are tennis, due to the length and stop-start nature of the game, requiring good endurance; rugby, requiring both strength and endurance - difficult to achieve at the same time; and football, simply as the game involves 90 minutes of sprinting and so the fitness levels needed to succeed are considerable.
Of course there is no right answer to the question of which athletes are the best. But I would personally argue that due the power, skill and endurance required to be a top basketball player, these athletes are equal to any, and the way the NBA is changing, their abilities are only going to improve.
Original image by Sam Quinn