If men played basketball with a live duck as the basketball, a lot of things would be different about basketball.
First, it would be called “duck,” or “basketduck.”
Next, and this is a big one, a lot of ducks would be killed through the sheer force of throwing them headfirst into a hardwood floor again and again. Ducks don’t bounce, but dribbling will still be allowed, which will surely cause a lot of dizzy waddling and severe head injuries. This adds at least two jobs to every team, that of the Basketduck Wrangler to help guide the wigglies, and the Basketduck Janitor, to clear the injured. Neither of these participants would be considered part of the team, but would serve in the same capacity as a water boy or clipboard holder.
If the duck is still alive or awake after a couple of dribbles, it then becomes the goal of every player to chase the duck until they catch it. It will not be considered traveling if the duck is just running away.
Strategically, a good basketduck player would wait until the duck wobbled into the scoring circle, and then just pick it up and throw it at the hoop. Traditional shooting technique would prove useless, as the direction of the shot would now be dictated by the free will of the duck. Duck psychology, eating preferences and mating habits will be required research, as amazing three point shots become more feasible if you can bait the hoop with the right kinds of bread or a finely-preened lady duck. To that end, hoop baiting will be allowed.
If the duck spooks while it’s still of right mind, it could even fly up into the rafters, at which point the Basketduck Wrangler will be sent to scare it back down and dose it with a mild barbiturate to prevent fly-ups. Glass duck ceilings could be considered, but confused ducks may fly into them and incur the same head trauma they would receive during normal play.
If you’ve been successful in attracting your “ball” to the hoop, you will then have to coerce him through the actual net. This could be especially difficult because ducks, particularly fat ducks, are generally wider than a standard hoop and might not fit. Hoops will not be widened. If you get as far as having a duck wedged within a hoop, this will be considered a score and a stop of play will be called while the Basketduck Janitor either unsticks the trapped duck or replaces the hoop entirely. Hoop budgets will skyrocket.
Of course, there will be quacking. Ducks don’t like men running around trying to carry them from one end of a room to another, or dunking them into things, and they will get upset. The duck may in fact become incorrigible. Rowdy ducks will be removed from play until they can get it together, and there will be a special soundproof box courtside to accommodate these penalties.
If a duck runs out of air, pumps will not help. Assuming ducks are able to get out of breath like other living things, the referee would have to make a hand gesture near his face like a heaving beak to indicate a stop in play for the “ball” to recover. During any stoppage in play, the Jumbotron will play tribute videos to the ducks that have already been lost during that game due to head traumas or runaways. To note, this wouldn’t be depressing because of how inspiring it would be instead, and people will definitely clap and not boo loudly.
Obviously, PETA might be really out to get basketball once the number of dead ducks starts to rise, which could put a damper on the sport and cause a lot of players, especially vegetarians or those who own ducks as pets, to quit. The modified game of basketduck doesn’t require nearly as much athleticism as basketball proper, so these players could be easily be replaced by shorter, fatter people who are better at duck calling. This would also look funnier when they are mixed in with all the stronger, taller players, and comedy is widely regarded as a great addition to sporting events. The Basketduck Wrangler should be both tall and fat, to intimidate the ducks and make them want to stop of their own volition. The Basketduck Janitor can be any size.
Finally, and most importantly, despite all the potential pitfalls of these drastic modifications, the upside is that basketball would now be absolutely adorable and impossible to hate. Non-sports lovers will turn up in droves to see the colorful cast of ducks. Diehard fans will still appreciate the majesty of men constantly dashing back and forth with the added masculine complications of tending to barnyard animals. And even babies, a notoriously difficult market for professional sports, would want to “go to the place with all the quackies.”
For more information on licensing, or to purchase raw materials, please visit my store, Dave’s Surplus Duck Farm and Basketball Hoop Factory.