The NBA Playoffs have come and gone. We saw Kobe get #4 and we saw Phil get #10. This upcoming Thursday, June 25, 2009 is the NBA Draft and then we stop talking about the NBA for a while. So as a season round-up, I thought I’d take a quick look at how the NBA has changed its image.
The days of Jordan, Bird and Magic are gone. The game has changed. For the most part, the game has gone from a team game to one of individual highlights. Boston and San Antonio are the exception to this thought. What was once a game of teamwork, discipline and family entertainment has shifted into flash, youth, greed and selfishness. This change isn’t necessarily bad and I still believe the core concepts of the game are still there. The passion of the game still resides in many players, however, instead of trying to build the image of the game; I think more players are trying to build their image and status. Times have changed and so have people. Some may argue that this is just the NBA trying to remain relevant and keep up with the times. The hottest topic of the game is what LeBron James is going to do in 2010. You never heard this when Jordan and Bird were playing. The “I gotta get mine” era is here, unfortunately.
Despite the image being tarnished, in my opinion, the one bright spot is the increase in the audience. The NBA is global thanks to the likes of Yao Ming, among others. The NBA is just as popular in China and European countries as it is here in the United States. So while the NBA has gone global, I also think the NBA has appealed to a lot younger audience. In the 90’s, the majority of players were a lot older than they are now. In today’s game you have Kobe, CP3, Dwight Howard, LeBron — all young stars just reaching their peak. As the number of young stars increase, I think the NBA can continue to increase its audience and reach.
Will we see more games being played in China and other countries? Probably not. Based on logistics and the cost involved, I think it’s simply impossible to have NBA teams outside of North America. Mexico? Possible, however, that’s probably as far as you can go. However, I think that the game overseas will continue to build which will result in growth in the NBA as well. With more potential NBA players going overseas to play and with the increase in international talent and competition, it will make the NBA step its game up in order to remain competitive.
While there are a few things I dislike about the NBA, it’s clear that its brand is slowly becoming more and more relevant. Kobe and LBJ are two of the world’s biggest stars and there are a few other players that I feel can become international stars. Clearly the NBA isn’t at NFL and MLB levels, however, I think the NBA can pass MLB if current trends continue. NASCAR is no longer the dominate force it was and soccer will never reach great popularity in the U.S. The NBA is a great position and if managed effectively, has the potential to become more relevant and popular.