It was an energy that hasn’t been provided by the arena's NBA tenant -- the Philadelphia 76ers -- in a long time.
Both games, featuring hometown Villanova and powerhouse UConn, were complete blowouts. Yet, the crowd that filled the South Philly gym remained captivated and interested.
It’s becoming harder to find fans captivated in a competitive or non-competitive NBA game anymore.
Why would fans prefer to watch amateurs (college athletes) instead of pros?
It’s the Hustle -- or, in the NBA’s case -- lack thereof.
Hustle was once a staple of the golden age of the NBA. Bird, Dr. J, Magic and Jordan ruled the hardwood and hustled all over the floor.
Hustle doesn’t exist in today’s NBA. The biggest killer of hustle -- the inflated guaranteed contracts that start from draft day.
It seems that guys just loaf around because at the end of the day they still get the check -- a big one at that.
Not so in the college game.
Villanova was up by 20 points on UCLA last Saturday, yet Nova’s Dwayne Anderson still dove to the floor for a loose ball late in the game.
That would never happen if the Sixers, Lakers or any other team were up by 20 points late in an NBA game.
The worst part is that fans have to put up with 82 games of lazy underplayed professional basketball. Half the games are absolutely meaningless and an utter waste of time to boot.
Talking about waste. Half of the NBA teams are even more of a waste -- there are too many teams.
In the NFL it works because of competitive parody. Not so in the NBA.
The NBA has become a league that just spreads mediocrity like a disease.
More teams opens up more room for players that really aren’t pro material. Half of today’s starters would be lucky to be benchwarmers in the NBA of yesteryear.
The lethargic on court play coupled with the abundance of off court troubles has brought the league from the glory of Showtime to almost no airtime. The league is rarely featured on national broadcast TV as it used to be -- most games are shown on cable.
There is hope for the NBA. They are tying to bring back the great rivalries that audiences once craved. The Celtics resurgence and the Kobe/Lebron debate aren’t good enough because fans aren't interested enough to care.
The NBA and its players need to take a lesson from its amateur counterparts in the NCAA ranks.
The league needs to make us believe that the majority of players are actually passionate once again and that winning really is paramount -- beyond their paychecks.
Until then, the league will deservingly so become less and less apart of our sports fans' lives.
Because -- right now -- the NBA stinks!