For as long as I’ve watched sports the NFL has been king.
Once we entered the dog days of summer there was the sound of pads crunching in the distance. The countdown for training camp was underway and we would be inundated with football talk. There was an excitement crackling from each city that had their own team for they believed that this could be their season.
The stranglehold seemed to only grow stronger with the advent of the 24/7 news cycle and social media. We weren’t only inundated by talking heads over-analyzing everything, but we were also in a sea of sports opinions by everyone who had access to the internet.
Now, I’m not here to say that NFL is no longer the most popular sports league in America. The Hall of Fame game was on Thursday and drew 7.8 million overnight viewers which was more than most NBA and MLB playoff games. A pre-season game drew more eyes than the other major sports (admittedly the NBA playoffs were terrible, and baseball is terrible in general) that alone is proof that the NFL won’t be falling off its perch anytime soon.
So why am I making this post? On Friday morning, the driver of sports talk was still the NBA. One week into August, and we were still talking about a league that saw its season end over a month prior. We are in an offseason that featured Western Conference moving heaven and Earth to make moves that will make them lose closer series to the Golden State Warriors. A Summer League that saw Lonzo Ball reignite excitement in a starving Los Angeles Lakers fan base. Just when the boil started to slow the news broke that Kyrie Irving wanted to be traded.
The Kyrie news helped reignite the excitement behind a potential Carmelo trade which shed light on the fact that LeBron James most likely won’t be returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The league with the biggest stars, biggest personalities, and the best game play of the big three sports was now encroaching on the NFL portion of the calendar.
The NBA also has something that the NFL desperately wants, but will never have. International popularity. Basketball is a game that is played by the world. Football is a game played by Americans (with a few exceptions). This exposure worldwide opens up the NBA to a greater audience in another area as well: online.
Earlier this year, the NBA surpassed the NFL in subscribers on Reddit.
That’s not all look at these other numbers:
- Twitter: NFL – 23.8 million followers| NBA – 26.1 million followers
- Youtube: NFL – 2.1 million followers | NBA – 7.9 million followers
- Instagram: NFL – 9.7 million followers | NBA – 24.3 million followers
What this advantage digitally also reveals is that the NBA audience skews younger than the NFL. The average NFL fan is 50. The average NBA fan is 42. 11% of NBA viewers are between the ages of 2-17 compared to 9% of the NFL’s (side note: both have consistently seen dips in youth popularity over past decade).
Coinciding with all of this is that the NBA is having its highest rated Finals since Michael Jordan was winning championships with the Chicago Bulls.
The NFL wears the crown, and it probably will for the foreseeable future. In the distance, the sound we hear is that of crossover dribbles, and screeching sneakers.
The NBA got next. The only question is: when?