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It's NBA vs. NHL
in Bakay's Tale of Tape

Page 2 columnist

The NBA and NHL: Both seasons are within spitting distance of that traditional midseason spectacle/snore: The All-Star Game.

Mario Lemieux
By scoring Sunday, Mario Lemieux helped the NHL have the highest-scoring All-Star Game in its history.
The NHL already rang up a high-scoring beauty. Even slow-footed defensemen scored, in some cases evoking my favorite hockey announcer, the great Rick Jeanneret, by going "top shelf, where momma hides the cookies!"

The NBA is currently trying to get anyone remotely famous to participate in its game, having already surrendered the so-called skills competitions to rookies and sixth men.

Yet, the NBA remains a juggernaut of sorts, while the NHL looks on lustfully at the XFL's ratings.

It all begs the question: Which sport is better, pro hoops or pro pucks? Gary Bettman's the only suit who has worked both sides of that buffet. The rest of us are going to have to use our puzzlers. They both have nets, refs, and fights ... albeit, roundball fights lean toward the type of hair pulling normally associated with women's prison movies.

But both leagues play in 20,000-seat municipal auditoriums that remind me of the heavy metal triple-bills of my youth; Blue Oyster Cult/UFO/Nazareth.

And yet the NBA and the NHL are as different as their urban and arctic roots. Hoops. Pucks, All-Stars, oh m'goodness! Let's see how the two sports stack up in my Tale of the Tape ...

Category NBA NHL Advantage
Least exciting play The first 46 minutes Icing NBA
How they settle disputes A jump ball A jump face NHL
Hey, I've been to Salt Lake City. Trust me, this isn't what Coltrane had in mind.

Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. Oops, Disney is paying me right now. I meant to say the Montreal Canadiens. Yeah. I mean, what's so Canadian about a team owned by Yanks?
Push. Whew, dodged a bullet on that one, didn't I?
Tribal war paint Allen Iverson's homophobic tattoos Intimidating art
on goalie masks
Scoring About 223 points in the typical All-Star Game. About 321 goals in the typical All-Star Game. NHL. At least it's different from a typical regular-season final.
Superstars in action
Kobe wide open, creating magic

Jaromir Jagr trying to cross the blue line with four guys carving his shins into leg tartar. It's like Steve Mcqueen in "The Great Escape," you know they're going to bring him down before he reaches the border.
Teeth Marv Albert's using 'em Players are
losing 'em
Fan interaction Wave those squiggly things to distract the shooter at the foul line Heave an octopus! NHL. You know they say it tastes like chicken ...
Fan relations Reggie Miller taunts Spike Lee Players and coaches actually go into the stands and beat the tar out of civilians Push
Dangerous working conditions The floor is slick with sweat The ice is congealed with blood and gristle Push. Kids, nobody wins with bodily fluids
Aggressive moves Penetrate the lane Penetrate Paul Kariya with your Koho NBA
Which ESPN studio analyst would win in a street fight
Dr. Jack Ramsay

Barry Melrose
The NHL. Oh, it's not even close! And that hurts me, because I'm still a Buffalo Braves fan. Fav lineup? Bob McAdoo, Jack Marin, Gar Heard, Randy Smith, Ernie DiGregorio. And if you're thinking to yourself, "Ernie No-D," you can kiss my butt.
High-school fund raisers Donkey basketball Um, mascot hockey? Beaver hockey? Push. Everyone's a winner when charity takes home the cup
Fan cost $1,000 a seat to get taunted by a superstar A fraction of that price to watch an enforcer climb the glass and pummel a drunk lawyer NHL
And finally, total entertainment Those wacky, trampoline-dunkin' mascots! That incredible moment when the Zamboni cleans the last patch of ice! NHL

So, there you have it. It's so simple when you break things down scientifically. In a penalty-shot buzzer-beater, the advantage goes to the NHL! But hang in there, NBA, at least most Americans understand your rules. Until next time I'm Nick Bakay reminding you the numbers never lie.

Humorist Nick Bakay, currently a writer for the CBS sitcom "King of Queens," is a regular contributor to ESPN The Magazine and Page 2. He has a Web site at

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