The NBA is a mystery to me as well. For me, it's not so much the character of the players or dress code or whatever that is the turnoff. It's just the lack of quality of the overall game. Every game feels as if they are going through the motions until the final few minutes. It gets extremely repetitive. Every possession ends in one of three ways: a guard being isolated and driving one on five to try to draw the foul, a guard settling for a three as the shot clock runs out, or a forward backing down his man and putting up a shot (also trying to draw a foul). It is a crap product with zero effort, intensity, and strategy except for the final few minutes of a close game. College basketball on the other hand is a much more intense and enjoyable sport for me to watch.
This is all coming from someone that considers NBA basketball players some of the best athletes on the planet. These guys are 6'10", agile, explosive, coordinated, etc. That's an incredible combination. Just a shame that it is wasted on the NBA.
I get that far more people play pickup basketball and have an maybe have a better understanding of the game. However, I have never held a hockey stick on ice skates in my life and I still watch hockey all the time. Maybe I'm just different in that regard.