The quote, “writing about music is like dancing about architecture” has on various occasions been attributed to Martin Mull, Elvis Costello and Frank Zappa, none of whom weighed on the difficulty of analyzing professional basketball while sitting next to Peter Vecsey. For that, we have NBA Hall Of Famer Julius Erving, who in his upcoming tome, “Dr J.: An Autobiography”, has a pretty compelling reason for turning down future TV commentary jobs (excerpt / link swiped from Kelly Dwyer and Ball Don’t Lie)
I worry that I am not up to the task of explaining the essence of basketball as it is played at the highest levels. I feel that it is like trying to explain music through words or to describe a painting through text. You can give a feeling of the work, or compare it to something else, but you can’t re-create the actual feeling of being on the court, or making that move, of imposing your will, of the precise moment that you realize you can reach the front of the rim.
“Because it is not a moment, it is a sense, an instinct, a flicker of insight and nerve so sudden that you have to act on it before it is a thought. What do you see? A subtle shift of weight, a lowering of the hands, a leaning forward, a glance, and that is enough to set off a chain of events. They are actions that stem from a thousand tiny instincts. But from where we are sitting above the court, we are unable to explain the game through these small moments, and instead talk about the Bulls’ second chance scoring and the Rockets’ bench production.