Popular Top 10 NBA Cliches
The NBA and sports in general are filled with cliches. They’ve become so ingrained in our vocabulary that we use these ridiculous terms and phrases without thinking about their actual meaning. Even though we use these words in everyday language, do we know what they mean?
Jay Bilas of ESPN is well known for his cliches and uses them frequently. While some view it as adding pizzazz to an article, it can get confusing and cause some readers to stop reading. If every player has great “upside” and a terrific “motor,” how does anyone stand out?
The use of descriptors is important, but once they get overused they lose their value. It’s also difficult to express true meaning when using cliches. Let’s take a look at 10 cliches and what they really mean.
Good on Paper
As with a lot of cliches, this one is a backhanded compliment. Stating that a team is “good on paper” is saying that while their statistics and vitals look impressive, they aren’t likely to (or have yet to) carry it onto the court.
Either a team is good or they aren’t. It’s possible for them to be unproven, but saying that they are “good on paper” is just a slap in the face, as it points out that they haven’t proven it on the court.
A good example of this right now is the Brooklyn Nets. It’s impressive to have the starting lineup of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez. On paper, that is.
“Great upside” is a way to describe a player’s potential. So why not use the term “potential”? Players that are labeled as having “great upside” are generally young players that haven’t played in the league or have played sparingly.
The key to this term is that the player has to show something to make one believe that they are capable of performing at a high level. They could have great college statistics or some skill set that is unique and can do well at the NBA level.
Anthony Davis qualifies as having a “great upside.” He’s shown his skills at the college level and in his small role on the Olympic team. We can see that he could be great if he fully develops as a player.
A Player Is Raw
When a player is considered “raw,” it’s in reference to their skills. Often, it is used in a more specific sense, as in their low-post offense is “raw.”
This is definitely not a compliment to a player. In fact, it’s sugar-coating the fact that they aren’t good at something yet. It’s saying they aren’t ready, like a food that hasn’t been cooked.
The difference between someone being bad and being raw is expectations. Dan Gadzuric’s offense isn’t raw, it’s bad. Jan Vesely’s offensive skill is raw. We have reason to believe he can improve his offensive game based on what we’ve seen so far.
If a food (player) has already been cooked (experienced), then it can’t be considered raw anymore.
It’s a Players’ League
This one is frustrating because it’s very true. Saying that the NBA is a “players’ league” is in reference to the amount of power that they control. In an ideal world, the power would trickle down from the top, or at the very least be split evenly among the league, teams and players.
In the world we live in, players are allowed a lot more flexibility and are given much more power. In what other job can you yell at your boss? In what other profession can you yell at your co-workers?
The union protects the players in situations where they feel that they’ve been wronged. Last I checked, the league was formed by the owners, who employ the players. It seems like it’s backwards now. Dwight Howard allegedly getting a coach fired? That’s like the fry cook getting the general manager at McDonald’s fired. Shouldn’t happen.
The term of having a “great motor” makes sense but the idea behind it is extremely frustrating. Having a great motor is in reference to a player’s energy level and activity on the court. If they are constantly giving full effort and are staying active in all facets of the game, they are thought of as having a great motor.
But wait, isn’t everyone supposed to do that?
So you’re telling me that it’s acceptable to be lackadaisical on defense but give full effort on offense? What happened to the days of every player giving full effort on every play? I guess that’s why many enjoy the college game more than the NBA.
Saying that someone has a good basketball IQ is a nice compliment but it’s a bit silly. It’s implying that the player has good knowledge of the game and is able to apply it during play.
A player like Steve Nash is definitely thought to have a good basketball IQ (at least on offense). He knows how to get his teammates in position to succeed and can carry out that task.
Basketball isn’t as difficult as football. There are only five guys on the court. To be a successful NFL quarterback, you have to be smart. To be a successful NBA player, you don’t need the mental acumen of Stephen Hawking.
Why aren’t coaches talked about as having a good basketball IQ? Isn’t it their job? Aren’t they supposed to pass that knowledge to the players? Every player should have a good basketball IQ if they are going to play on the highest level.
Giving 110 Percent
In a world of exaggerations where EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN THE WHOLE WORLD exaggerates (see what I did there?), the phrase “giving 110 percent” fits in perfectly.
The idea is that a player gave more than they could have been expected to give and stood out above the rest because of their effort. What’s happening is that we’re admitting that we don’t expect everyone to give full effort.
If a player dives over the front row to save a ball, he’s said to be giving 110 percent. We’re implying that other players wouldn’t give that effort. In reality, he’s giving 100 percent, while the others give less.
It’s a Do-or-Die Situation
In an effort to raise the dramatic effects of our sports, we use these kinds of cliches to explain climactic situations. When a team is down and has the ball with very little time remaining and will likely get one chance to win the game, it’s talked about as a do-or-die situation. The same can be said for elimination games.
This isn’t life we’re talking about here. It’s a game. There is no such thing as a do-or-die situation in sports. It’s a piece of language that we’ve gotten used to saying, although it’s as ridiculous as saying that a player can “jump out of the gym.”
Talk to a veteran who had a grenade dropped in their lap and had to make their way through a hail of gunfire to get to safety. That’s a do-or-die situation.
Of all the backhanded compliments that one can receive, being labeled as a “volume scorer” is one of the worst. The translation is, “terrible shooter who continues to shoot in an effort to score points regardless of the effect on the team.”
The reference to bad shooting can be further drilled down to talk about efficiency. One of the historical examples of a volume scorer would be Allen Iverson. His career best points per game came in 2001-02, when he averaged 31.4. He shot 39.8 percent from the field that year.
The term is confusing because an outsider would think of a volume scorer as someone who simply scores a lot. The key here is the terrible field-goal percentage to go along with it.
Perhaps the worst cliche in basketball is a “great no-call.” This is like complimenting someone for using their left leg, then their right leg in order to walk. Isn’t it a given?
A great no-call is in reference to a play where the referee could have blown the whistle. The problem with this is, it’s implying there is a gray area when talking about fouls. Isn’t it either a foul, or not a foul? If a defender hits his opponent softly, it’s not a foul?
This one falls in the same category as “let them play.” In essence, you’re saying you don’t like the way the rules are structured and the referees should ignore them. If I run by you and you’re 10 feet away, is that a “great no-call” too? It’s either a foul or it’s not. Let’s not send adoration towards the referees for bending the rules.