In the early 1980’s The NBA was in a state of flux. No one wanted to come watch a typical professional basketball game due to the quality of games that were being performed. Fights would break out during games, the quality of teams were poor, and there were no stars on any roster to galvanize a fan base. That all changed when “The Great White Hope” and “Showtime” arrived. Larry Bird and Ervin “Magic” Johnson created a rivalry that brought the entire NBA to a rise in attendance and performance. With the college game not as popular the NBA and basketball in general was in danger of being shut down. Then came Michael Jordan, the most polarizing player in sports history. The NBA had become a national power. With only football to compete with, the NBA soon became the sport everyone wanted to play. unfortunately once Jordan retired, the NBA has gone back from being an international power, to suddenly being surpassed one of the least watched sporting events in America. The shocking part is that the college game has taken the opposite turn. It has come to the point today that college basketball has now become more popular than the professional game itself. How is that possible when the athletes in college basketball are not even unionized? The answer to that question is simple; the media, fans and the NBA players are the cause of this recent turn of power.
The new generation of players have been the cause of this decline of support to the NBA’s decline in popularity. Players are now going straight to the NBA right out of high school, taking more and more time to mature into future stars in the NBA. These players now have changed from hard-nosed, smart athletes of the past players to an immature, cocky and dumb individuals who roam the paint. Now more than ever NBA players are becoming bankrupt or pro-busts because of their immaturity and lack of knowledge. With no college education it has become harder and harder for pro players coming out of high school to actually have a respectful life in which they do not become bankrupt. The quality of games these young players are playing are also declining and making it harder for people to actually want to see. “Flopping” or faking an injury for an opposing teams foul has now been the norm in the NBA. There is more of a need for flash or how cool a play was then making sure they actually play the game the right way. There is no honor in a NBA game anymore and now it is all about who is the flashiest players in the game. None of these examples mean more than the NBA All-star game where defense is non-existent, there is no honor in the game and just less and less popularity each time. The video below shows how boring the All-star game has actually become. With these new types of players, the NBA has become one of the least popular sports and fans are struggling to even watch poor basketball now.
Media changing the way Fans watch
When we look at how the college game and how it has actually surpassed the professional game we have to look at what the media has done to change that and how the fans have reacted to that. One of the simplest examples of this is through March Madness. While the NBA is 82 grueling games where it gets boring from time to time, college basketball and its month of pure excitement in March pulls fans from all over the country to watch some spectacular games. Fans are no longer interested in watching pro teams play for 82 games or a playoff series that has to rival with playoff hockey (arguably the best form of playoffs in professional sports). College Basketball gets coverage from media outlets all over the country wanting to discuss how their own hometown university has a chance to beat college teams much bigger than their own. Instead of covering and watching a full college basketball season fans and the media seem more excited to dissect about match ups between close to 64 teams to decide who is the new National Champion. In fact the country-wide phenomenon known as the “bracket challenge” occurs and media outlets are actually played to give their insight on who they think you should choose to win in your bracket. That popularity continues to grow to this day and while the quality of the games become better and better, the national coverage given to college basketball will grow as well, making the professional game more like professional lacrosse obsolete.
How Can the NBA be saved?
With the popularity of the NBA declining, one question remains: how can the NBA be saved? They do have polarizing players such as Lebron James and Kevin Durant which can help with marketing but the true aspect of saving the NBA is in their draft process. The Media loves having March Madness be about the best players in college basketball and with the best sometimes not even going to college, the NBA suffers with immature players. If they create a rule saying that you must spend at least 3 years in college (like the NFL) then they will bring in mature players. Mature players will produce great basketball and great basketball will make for bigger fan bases and a much more popular sport.