I have a somewhat different take on the essential nature of basketball.
It is about execution, timing, etc., as you say, but it is also a decidedly physical
sport in which body-on-body strength is as an important an ingredient for success as are height, jumping ability, agility, stamina, and quickness. Especially the pro game.
And the players are professionals who (with some exceptions) care very much about winning, and put a lot of effort into their play.
And it is a game you cannot play at a high level without an enormous investment of ego.
Wherever you have young men engaged in activity with a strong physical contact component, with a lot at stake in financial and egotistical terms, and a very high level of mental intensity as well, there will from time to time inevitably be situations where things get out of hand. Unfortunate, perhaps, and certainly to be contained to the greatest extent practicable by rules and their enforcement, but unavoidable in my view.
If the NBA didn't recognize that some occasional instances of this sort of thing were inevitable, they'd have a no-tolerance policy for any act of naked aggression. To me, the fact that sanctions for things like elbowing, fighting, etc., aren't much more drastic than they are signals that the league's view of the essential nature of the game aligns more closely to my view of it than it perhaps does to yours.
As to desire to be free of fear of players attacking the fans, I agree, though I think that the fact that there has only been one such incident I can recall in NBA's history indicates that your concerns are probably overstated.
On the other hand, some of the fan behavior, such as drunken disorderliness and some truly reprehensible
things I've heard or heard of having been said to players are things I'd worry almost as much, if not more, about exposing my children to.
I actually think that the level of self-restraint exhibited by some players in the face of what they experience on a nightly basis while doing their jobs
is something I'd be hard-pressed to match.