I started playing fantasy sports about six years ago, and I was instantly hooked. I’ve played in at least one fantasy baseball, basketball, and football league every year since then. Fantasy sports renewed and deepened my interest in each sport to the extent that I now know the names and stats of just about every player in each league. Over the years, I’ve started to care less about my actual favorite sports teams and their inept owners and general managers, and I’ve started to care more about my fantasy sports teams, where I have full control over the players I pick and cheer for.
This year, my favorite football team, the New York Giants, were horrible, but I didn’t mind because one of my two fantasy teams was in first place. This week, the Giants were already eliminated from the playoffs, but my fantasy team was in the championship matchup. I feared I was going to lose after my quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, scored only 12.4 points, and my opponent had Andrew Luck, the number one fantasy player this year. Naturally, Luck went on to score 2.36 points, and I held on to win the championship, though I don’t feel like I won, so much as I feel like I didn’t lose.
I can imagine how it must feel to be on the other end of a matchup like that because in previous years that was always me. Fantasy football seems to be a crapshoot every year. I prefer baseball, which translates into the perfect sport for fantasy because it so statistics-based. However, the grind of a 162-game season can be too much for some people, which is why basketball is the perfect happy medium between baseball and football. Basketball may not be as popular as football, but it’s my favorite sport to watch and play, both in fantasy and reality.
Here are five reasons why I think fantasy basketball is better than fantasy football:
1. More Games = Less Luck + More Skill
82 games of NBA basketball versus 16 games of NFL football. For a pure spectator sport, I actually like the idea of less games, so each matchup has more significance. But for fantasy sports, a short season like the NFL’s is tumultuous. The smaller the sample size, the larger role luck and variance plays. I love fantasy sports because, like poker, it combines both skill and luck. Fantasy basketball has a similar ratio of skill to luck as Texas Hold ‘Em, whereas fantasy football feels more like Blackjack. And unfortunately, you can’t count cards in fantasy football.
2. Less Injuries
One of the biggest luck factors in all fantasy sports is injuries. In baseball and basketball, you can better plan to avoid the injury-prone players, but in football, injuries are almost unavoidable because of the nature of the game. There are multiple concussions every week, and at least half of your team will always be questionable. And even if your player is healthy, they are always one hit away from leaving the game early. If a basketball player gets injured, missing one game out of 82 is no big deal, and you can easily replace him for the next game.
3. Roto Scoring
My first fantasy basketball league had weekly head-to-head scoring, and my team dominated the regular season, just like the Cleveland Cavaliers did that year. Both of us had the best player in the league in LeBron James, but the first-place Cavs rested LeBron for the final week of the regular season to prepare for the playoffs. However, for my fantasy league, that final week of the regular season was the championship matchup, and without LeBron, I lost. Ever since then, I only play year-long rotisserie scoring leagues, so ALL of my best players’ stats count towards the championship equally. Unfortunately, fantasy football is almost exclusively played in head-to-head scoring formats. So if your team goes crazy and wins your week 5 matchup by 100 points, it won’t matter if you later lose your week 15 championship matchup by 0.5 points.
4. Defensive Stats
I hate how half of the league is basically obsolete in fantasy football. I know IDP leagues exist, but most people don’t play them. Offensive players and defensive players are like apples and oranges in football, and the one shortcoming in fantasy baseball is its disregard for defensive fielding statistics. Basketball is the one sport that accounts for both offensive and defensive stats for the same players. I know steals and blocks aren’t the best indicator of a player’s defensive talent, but it’s better than nothing.
5. No Kickers
I can’t count how many times I’ve lost a fantasy football league because either my kicker laid a dud, or my opponent’s kicker went off for a huge game. It’s bad enough that actual football games are decided by a made or missed field goal. That doesn’t mean fantasy football has to be the same way. Thankfully, fantasy basketball has nothing of the sort. It would be like counting jumpball tip-offs as a stat category. Fantasy football already ignores punters, offensive linemen, and individual defensive players, so why not add kickers to the list.
Sure, I’m happy to have one my fantasy football championship, but I can’t deny that luck played a major factor— or should I say Luck. Meanwhile, I’m focused on improving my currently fourth-place fantasy basketball team, led again by LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers.