For those who thought the NBA was dying, you were very, very wrong
To paraphrase a famous quote--"Rumors of the NBA's demise were greatly exaggerated".
Over the past year during the pandemic and even further back than that, critics proclaimed the NBA had peaked and was hemorrhaging fans due to the league and its players taking social stands on issues one side of the political aisle did not like.
Those critics could not have been more wrong.
Sure, like almost every live sport and so many other popular events, viewership during 2020's COVID-19 pandemic took major hits. People were home, unable to attend games. And the assumption was that since people were home, they'd be tuning in to the events they couldn't go to.
That assumption was proven wrong, time and time again. Almost every single sport suffered massive viewership declines, much more than the annual hemorrhaging all programming has suffered from over the past 10-years.
The NBA played the last part of their 2019-20 season in a locked down bubble in Orlando and to be hones, the televised games were not fun to watch. Part of the entertainment value of watching sports is the palpable excitement that transfers to the viewers when an arena or stadium is full and loud.
Think about it....
According to TV viewership numbers, TNT was the top rated TV Network (out ALL of them) for the week of June 14-20--the reason: NBA Basketball.
Two Game 7's in the Eastern Conference semi-finals certainly helped. The top rated show in all of television during the week? New Jersey vs.Milwaukee with roughly 6.9 million viewers. #2? The Hawks-Sixers game with 6.1 million.
This was from June 22:
Still think the NBA is suffering?
What I think we're seeing is a changing of the guard. The past nearly two decades have been dominated by LeBron James and whichever team he is playing for. We also have traditionally been dominated by coverage of the "BIG" market teams. By that I mean the Los Angeles or New York teams with an occasional Philadelphia or someone else mixed in.
Just in the past decade we've seen the Golden State Warriors change the game and the era of the "Super-Team" become real with James teaming up with various stars at stops in Cleveland, Miami, back to Cleveland and the Lakers. And yeah, he's got a handful of titles to show for it.
The motivation for attacking the league came from hyper-partisan websites like Outkick The Coverage which specializes in provocation and assumptions and has a pretty big following. They continue to push a narrative saying the league is tanking because fans are angry about the social stance of both the league and it's players.
I call bullshit. Does anyone really believe NBA fans are bailing out because of that? Uh, no. If that were the case and things were so horrible, how could we be discussing the playoff games being the top rated shows...in all of television?
It's why we should never take the word of the people who scream the loudest. They aren't the majority of the public.
But enough about those who love nothing more than to do than scream about idiotic politics.
If you want to know why the game is changing, watch the 2021 playoffs. There is no LeBron, there is no Kevin Durant or James Harden or Steph Curry and right now, it's not hurting anything.
Instead you have teams like the Phoenix Suns who has been bad for years. The Suns won 19 games in 2018-19, the last full season the NBA played. They hadn't been in the playoffs at all since 2009.
Suddenly, a few good drafts, the emergence of Devin Booker as a legitimate NBA star and--boom! You've got a conference finalist team who wins games like this.
Then there are the Atlanta Hawks, a team that was 14-20 nearly halfway through this season. The Hawks fired their then head coach, promoted Nate McMillan to interim coach and suddenly, the Hawks could not be beat. Atlanta had not been to the playoffs since the 2016-17 season.
One of the youngest, least experienced teams in the league finished strong, got the 5th seed in the playoffs and all of a sudden, the world was introduced to Trae Young.
Yes, the 22-year old Young can shoot. He can pass. And he can put on a show like few others. The NBA has always been a "learn by experience" league and well, Young and his Hawks teammates seem to be blowing that tradition out the window as they exploded onto the playoff scene, proving almost every expert wrong as they lead the Eastern Conference Finals 1-0.
My point is this: The world is changing. Sports are changing. Like life, not everyone is on the same page and some don't want or like that change.
The NBA, I believe is a microcosm of that change.
Yes, the league--and it's players are progressive. What we are seeing, I believe are the views and actions of 20-year olds who don't live their lives or play their sport the way those of previous generations did. That's why we are seeing the conflict between expectations, views and reality.
It's why you have groups of older people who's belief system pre-programs them to accept things for what they were rather for what they now are whining and complaining about the NBA. It's why there's such a generational split in the current world in which we live.
Sports in many ways are small subsets of life. Yeah, you can say all the money thrown around makes athletes not like everyone else, but you'd be making an assumption. Unless you are a part of their generation or demographic--you can't relate to it. And neither can I.
But you can understand it for what it is, which is why I believe the NBA is the future. Much more so than the NFL or any other sport outside of Soccer.
That's my opinion, I"m more than willing to hear arguments to the contrary. But you better come armed with some facts.