The NBA has gotten soft, and it’s time for that to change

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Soccer players are constantly dragged by athletes and fans of other sports for diving — I was called a “grass fairy” often when I played. But for all that talk, professional basketball players spend more time on the ground than anyone else. Boston Celtics’ guard Marcus Smart comes to mind when thinking about flopping in basketball. Players know how to manipulate the situation to get the foul call, and it’s ruining the reputation of the game. With the recent rise of three-point shooting and the move away from big lineups that focus on points in the paint, the game has become less about physical strength and all about the long ball. Not to worry, though — Philadelphia 76ers’ center Joel Embiid and Minnesota Timberwolves’ center Karl-Anthony Towns have fans who miss the good old days of the league covered.

Embiid and Towns have been in the conversation for the league’s best center since both rose to stardom over the last two to three seasons. Towns is considered one of the best shooting big men in the league with an incredible offensive repertoire, but doesn’t put in much effort on defense. Embiid has been celebrated as the most complete center in the game, blending offense and defense perfectly while hearkening back to all-time great Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon with his moves in the post. The rivalry between the two was created by the media, as the Sixers and Wolves only play each other twice a season, but their first matchup didn’t disappoint. Every game between the two is entertaining, and Embiid has yet to lose to Towns — at least on the court.

In one of the first games of the season, Embiid and Towns got into a shoving match in the fourth quarter that quickly escalated. Most “fights” in professional sports — outside of hockey, of course — consist of some light pushing and name-calling, with maybe the occasional spitting in someone’s face. It’s been years since players like Metta World Peace (formerly Ron Artest) really threw punches on the court. But Embiid and Towns did just that, much to the joy of the fans at the game in Philadelphia. Even after the two were separated, Sixers point guard Ben Simmons had Towns on the ground in a choke hold, and it looked like Towns eventually “tapped out,” again to the joy of Sixers fans.

This is what the league should be.

No more whistles for the slightest amount of contact. No more load management to keep players fresh for the playoffs. Fans want to see constant violence along with the huge dunks and demoralizing blocks.

How does the league reach this point? First, abolish the three-pointer. The ability for small players like Golden State Warriors’ guard Steph Curry to stand on the outside and rain points is overrated and boring to watch. If I have the choice between watching some six-foot pencil toss up shots or two seven-foot behemoths throw down at the rim, catch me screaming my head off when Embiid slams one. Next, remove flagrant fouls. Instead, if a player fouls someone and it’s incredibly dangerous, that’s two foul shots for the one who committed the foul. It’s time to reward the violently brainless players and punish those who spend years developing their crafty dribbling skills or mastery of all the angles of the backboard. If I can’t watch some version of football every time I turn the TV on, what am I watching for?