The NBA vs. the NFL

[Lebron] James has more than 38 million followers on Instagram and nearly 42 million on Twitter. Brady, the N.F.L.’s biggest star, has 4.1 million Instagram followers and is not active on Twitter.

The best of those N.B.A. players are also power brokers behind the scenes. The executive committee of the N.B.A. players’ union looks like a future wing of the Hall of Fame, including James, Curry, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony.

The John Branch article (NYT) is interesting throughout on the economics of sports, social media, American politics, and race.  I’ve said it before, but the NBA is one of the best-functioning institutions in America today.


If only they had a game that was worth watching.

Tell that to their record TV ratings this year, even with a Finals that was the 4th in a row of the same teams.

And what are the odds that the best teams, in a competitive league, are the same for four consecutive years? And that so many semi-final and quarter-final series go to seven games? Very slim.

Time to put your big boys pants on and concede the NBA = WWE (fake).

It seems like there's decent evidence that there are more seven-game series than you'd expect, but it seems likely to me to be more like the well-documented baseball phenomenon of the strike zone expanding in pitchers' counts and contracting in hitters' counts --- i.e. the refs subconsciously put their thumb on the scale in favor of the trailing team.

Odd are quite high when the top 4-5 players are all on those two teams. Also, this years finals was a sweep 4-0 and because of that a bit of a ratings dud (although the semis were amazing). Kinda blows a hole in your theory big time, doesn't it?

With only 5 players on the court at a time, and the best ones playing most of the game, a handful of players can dominate the league for a long time.

Doesn't mean it's not competitive, it's just an inherently dynasty-prone league.

it's not just about's how meaningless the regular season is....u useless exercise......71 wins? 45 wins? it's one home play off game...the best players frequently take a nite off when they travel to play crappy teams....a lot of uncompetitive games tho that may also be due to too much knicks/nets

Record TV ratings? The NBA's ratings are less than half what they were two decades ago.

Last year's Game 7 was the most watched NBA game in the history of the game. Also, the NBA is more popular than ever if you count the total global audience and not just US television as your link missed.

One game is irrelevant.

As for surging international viewership making up for a more than 50 percent decline in US viewership, I don’t see where you’re getting those figures. I can’t find anything specific about international viewership.

Doesn't include online AFAICT (no mention of internet). With that added back in - given the NBA has a stronger appeal with under 50s than other US sports - I am not sure it has declined. Interesting question about the future of sports deals and network deals tho.

Viewership for everything (well, everything that wasn't very low to begin with) is lower now than 20 years ago. A smash hit on tv today has ratings that would have gotten it canceled after a couple of weeks then.

The NBA is a good place. The game of basketball seems to be "designed" for social media (particularly IG), it's global and is tightly related with lifestyle \through its sneakers culture which is attracting more brands to the party, like Puma getting "back in business" despite Nike having the league/game on lock (official NBA supplier, Jordan Brand, LeBron James, FIBA main sponsor).

NBA is doing quite well in China. Notice the number of Chinese that play basketball almost equals the entire population of the US.

"Some 300 million play the game in the basketball-mad nation"
"107 million fans on television and digital media "

"Record 230 Million Video Streams Combined on Tencent for NBA All-Star Events"
"38.6 Million Viewers Tune in to CCTV-5 for First NBA All-Star Game Outside the United States"
"More than 1.05 billion impressions were generated on Sina Weibo using the #NBAALLSTARWEEKEND hashtag."

Derek wins the thread. +10000

As for Tyler:

>I’ve said it before....

Yes, and you've offered precisely zero evidence both times. Being active on Twitter means you're part of a highly-functional institution, eh? I didn't realize you such a fan of the Trump White House. Good to know.

And their chosen decision-makers are also the best field-goal shooters? Huh. I'd have thought they might lean towards choosing.... the best decision-makers. I guess these few people are just incredible at everything, being part of such a highly-functioning institution? Or something?

You are missing the point. No team can fire or bench LeBron James or Stephen Curry. So if they say controversial stuff about Trump, that gives protection to other players who could suffer those consequences to also say stuff without repercussions. Their skill as basketball players give them leverage to operate as leaders that better decision-making wouldn't make up for. Presumably some of Cowen's praise is that the NBA stars are managing their economic and popular leverage effectively to benefit the NBA as an institution. The NFL should also consider giving the players more power.

The 2016 Cavs vs Warriors Game 7 was the most watched NBA game in its history. If that isn't worth watching for you, fair enough this game isn't meant for you.

Boom goes the dynamite.

Hilarious msgkings stepped on his dick (good aim though considering the target) with a false claim and needed someone else to bail him out. 2016 isn't 2018.

The NBA playoffs are pretty great, year in and year out, but the regular season is too long and has too many inconsequential games. College basketball is better from January to March.

Oh stop it TC. If the NBA is the best functioning institution in the USA, the USA is dysfunctional. The NBA fixes games (implicitly, or, if you believe that disgraced convicted referee, and I do think he's credible to a degree, explicitly) and favored players are given star treatment when it comes to fouls. It's basically the WWE. As to followers on social media, the WWE was also more popular at one point; fads come and go.

Bonus trivia: I once saw the market value of EU soccer teams vs US football teams, and was amazed at how highly valued, even a few years ago, after brain injury and concussions had made news, the US teams were over their EU counterparts. Even the Detroit Lions had a higher market value than some rather famous Premier League soccer teams. Pretty striking. And I doubt the average fan cares too much about brain injuries, for the same reason they continue to watch wresting. If they cared, they would watch and follow an exciting sport like professional chess (or darts for that matter).

Senior moment: I was thinking boxing but wrote wresting about "continue to watch". But actually even former pro wrestlers have very short lifespans, probably due to the drugs they ingest to get that big.

Soccer is a good game, and brain injury is underrated. Let's make the fútbol for football switch.


That's not good. I thought the early results showed lower levels of injury.

I guess back to baseball, with some rule changes to reduce no hits and home runs. A bigger field?

A bigger ball!

>It's basically the WWE

Oh, the NBA is a lot more than the WWE. It's also the marketing department for an insanely-lucrative shoe industry.

Can the WWE get inner city poor kids to shell out $120 for sneakers? No. Not it cannot. It's not functioning well enough.

Do women in the NBA get equal pay for equal work? Didn't think so.
Worst functioning institution in the western patriarchy.

Uh oh. We now have a tie for thread-winner. Sorry Derek.

What about the transgenders? Do they have a league where they can be oppressed? I'm still deathly afraid of their pronouns though. Say no to pronoun gulags!

> They’ve concluded that there’s a segment of the country that’s not going to be part of the market because of the nature of the league, the history, the connection to the cities. That’s why the N.B.A. has gone global rather than try to keep attracting red-state America.

What would happen if Jeremy Lin decided to start loudly protesting the dystopian treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang? The NBA, plus Nike and Adidas and Rakuten, really want to capture a huge Chinese fanbase. Would Lin have to have a quiet and frank conversation with Sean Marks, Joe Tsai, or Adam Silver? Would he get the Kaepernick treatment? (Probably.) What if a top-tier superstar started speaking out about it instead?

"What if a top-tier superstar started speaking out about it instead?"
Then let's hope the league will allow them the opportunity to speak, so far the NBA has done a better job than the NFL. Relatedly, I think the world is growing tired of China being offended by all kinds of things these days like forcing airlines, hotels and other American/Western business from referring to Taiwan as Taiwan. If Trump wants to puff his anti-China chest, he could no better than call out China on this.

The vast majority of people don't even know there are sand groids in China.

so one of the best functioning institutions is also non-essential and irrelevent to life in general? not so comforting....

what I mean is this: if the NBA disappeared on the 1st of the July, in say 3 years time you wouldn't see the effects in any important metric in society or the economy. it doesn't matter. the same for the NFL, and indeed for all of professional spectator sports....

while if, say, our not so glorious high schools disappear, society would suffer greatly.

Maybe the point is for the essential dysfunctional institutions to learn from the nonessential functional ones. Of course part of what makes them more functional is the lower stakes.

Still small compared to soccer superstars

Like Hollywood, Silicon Valley and the energy industry, it is mostly unregulated and highly successful.

So may be Trump needs to shut up about the NFL and let laissez faire do its thing? The GOP is magnificent at forgetting what makes business work.

Yes, though I think the NFL is failing due to other reasons (mainly concussions, it just can never be safe enough). Trump is kicking something that's dying.

Hard to imagine anything more exciting than watching real tall guys wearing gaudy shoes shoot free throws. In the final series only 166 free throws were attempted in four games. Maybe there's an opportunity for a new television program, like the old "Home Run Derby" from back in the 50's. Have free throw shooting contests between various NBA stars.

Still more exciting than baseball, NASCAR, hockey, golf, and 95% of both olympics. NBA is still top tier with sports like soccer and football, each of which could be most exciting depending on players and teams.

Totally agree Tyler. Don’t let these human basement dwellers get you down.

Mike Trout might be the best baseball player in the history of the game. He's basically a modern day Willie Mays and could turn even more valuable if he has the longevity.

And yet most people have never heard of him. It's astonishing. I talk to people who casually follow baseball, who might watch some playoff games, and usually they haven't even heard of him.

It's worth noting that MLB is roughly the same popular as the NBA (in the USA). MLB is doing a horrible job promoting their stars. Part of the problem, of course, is that the fans are much older.

Number of non-Americans interested in the NFL? Probably a rounding error when applied to online metrics of NFL players.

Number of players in the NBA? Roughly 450. (There is always a certain amount of minor fluctuation in the actual numbers, even in the NBA.) And the number of international players? Over 100, or around 22.5% of NBA players.

Number of NFL players - around 1700 (with an undoubtedly higher fluctuation).

Number of international players - a bit harder to determine, due to this - - 'As part of the program, each team in the AFC North will carry an international player on their roster until the end of the 2018 training camp. At that time, the players will be eligible for an international player practice squad exemption. The exemption allows for an eleventh practice squad member, though they are ineligible to be activated during the season.'

However, to keep the number round, 50 NFL players could be considered 'internattional' players.

Almost as if basketball has a broader international appeal compared to American football, even if basketaball's actual international popularity pales when looking at a truly international sport. (Though the Italians just might be talking up the importance of basketball these days, to at least change the subject away from a national embarrassment.)

Seemingly overlooked is the basic difference in the nature of the protest.
Would there be a similar reaction to NBA players if they had been the first ones to kneel/sit during the national anthem?
It could be that those that are upset with NFL players aren't racists who want to keep black athletes silent. Maybe they really just don't like what they see as disrespecting the flag/anthem - something no NBA player has done at this point.

It's a different fan base. Imagine instead if an NBA player acknowledged that black unemployment is at a record low and said he wants to invite the President to a game so they can discuss issues issues affecting the black community afterward.

Actually, we're about to see the reverse scenario take place. Kevin McHale was just spotted attending a Trump rally.

Dwyane Wade once practiced jumpshots while the (Canadian) national anthem was playing. It wasn't a story and no one will care about national anthems unless the alternative is to confront the reality of racism.

Or maybe no one gives a shit about Canada?

The main difference is that Brady, one of the best players in the league, is little more than a cog in a machine. If the AFC East weren't unusually strong in 2008, the Pats would have gone to the playoffs without him. Meanwhile, wherever LeBron has gone in the past decade, that team goes to the championships and the team he goes to the lottery. So of course the stars are followed more in the NBA than any other sport. They have more impact. The NFL is well run, but the nature of the same game makes it a lot easier.

Should read " the team he leaves goes to the lottery."

The NBA is great, except for one thing: They let a highly successful franchise leave Seattle for OK City, which is why I won't watch NBA basketball until we get an NBA team back in Seattle.

If you disregard the inconsistent officiating, the NBA is entertaining.

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