Why are there more dunks in the NBA than in Europe?

Apparently, more dunks in the NBA than in Europe shouldn't be the case. This is based on the fact that they're playing the same sport, with minor differences. 
Why are there more dunks in the NBA than in Europe?

Last update: 24 March, 2019

By merely observing a quarter of an NBA game and a Euroleague game, it’s easy to notice that the games aren’t the same at all; even if you’re not a big basketball fan. One of the main differences between both is the number of dunks, which makes the NBA games more attractive in comparison to the Euroleague ones.

Although, there are also many other spectacular plays. In fact, we can see them in every match: alley oops, posters, blocks, etc. These plays are very striking for the spectators and, undoubtedly, they’ve become one of the keys to making money.

Thanks to the number of dunks and other plays, it’s not surprising that the US league has positioned itself as the most attractive one on the planet. How is this explained? Let’s review it in more detail.

More dunks in the NBA than in Europe

Considering the mere fact that they’re playing the same sport, with few differences in the rules, this shouldn’t be so. However, we’re going to try to shed some light so that this is better understood.

The NBA offers exciting plays.
Photo courtesy of El Pais

If we scratch the surface, we’ll realize that, for many years, Americans have been gradually making modifications that encourage spectacular basketball games.  This, along with its advantageous position, has contributed to widening the differences in basketball between both continents. These modifications are the following:

1. Preference for offensive basketball

The United States renounced defensive basketball a long time ago. However, in Europe, it’s still very much present, unless there are honorable exceptions.

These exceptions unintentionally tend to coincide with successful events, such as the Celtic champions Pierce, Garnett, and Allen. It becomes a sport with a basic guideline: if I score more points than my opponent, I win.

This would explain the higher point average for both teams and the greater number of possessions per NBA game in comparison to the Euroleague.

2. Modifying the rules

The NBA Commissioner is aware that the spectators visit the arena every night to see these types of plays. For this reason, they’ve been changing the rules progressively to always favor offensive basketball and the spectacular performances, of course.

The NBA Commissioner is aware that spectators go to the arena every night to see dunks and alley-oops. For this reason, the rules have been changing gradually, seeking to always favor offensive basketball and the spectacular performances.

This explains the decision policy that the league applies, as well as the longer matches, greater contact permissiveness, 3-second penalization for being in the defensive zone, and that you have to make 6 personal fouls, not 5, to get a disqualification.

You have to make 6 personal fouls to get disqualified from an NBA game.

3. A clear physical difference

Lastly, the physical difference between NBA players and Europeans is clear. It’s also evident that the remarkable plays, such as dunks, occur in the NBA far more frequently than in Europe.

There’s nothing new to discover about this; it’s enough to see a photo of the top NBA players and one of the top players in Europe. What perhaps many of you don’t know is that this physical supremacy has a two-way explanation:

  • A better physical preparation that’s specific and much more demanding. You can find many videos and articles if the topic is of interest to you.
  • The use of substances that are considered doping in Europe; such as anabolics, which are allowed when not in competition and with strict control by the franchise’s medical team. Undoubtedly, a very controversial policy that clashes with the anti-doping measures of organizations like WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency).

Solutions for Europe

After carrying out this analysis, we can conclude that these are the three main factors that justify a greater frequency of dunks in the NBA in comparison to Europe.

If Europe desires to approach NBA basketball, they should look at the things that they do well and try to imitate them. Although, they should do it without ever losing their own essence.

Evidently, some of the rules that the Americans use would cause a great commotion in Europe. However, it would be difficult to implement. In spite of that, they should start considering the idea that the sport should be above certain standards if they don’t want to fall behind.

In any case, imitating these features would only bring their competition closer to the technical level (which is enough), but there would be a long way to go in terms of the economic aspect. 

The sport should be above certain standards.

Once again, this happens throughout the realization that basketball, and sports in general, must be above certain laws; such as competition laws and labor laws. Consider this in terms of facilitating the production of a better product that’s more attractive to the viewers.

A bit of positivity

After all the explanations we’ve seen so far, it may seem that everything related to European basketball is negative. Nonetheless, there’s nothing further from reality. In recent years, good decisions have been made that have helped raise their competition level.

Despite this, they are still light years away from the level of game and culture that basketball fans enjoy in the United States.

Without a doubt, Europe must continue working in the same direction, without letting the international successes that certain national teams harvest (mainly in Spain) mislead them.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.