Friday, February 7th, 2014 at 9:40 am  |  34 responses

Commissioner Adam Silver Says NBA Should Rival the NFL in Popularity

The new Commissioner has lofty goals for the NBA on the domestic front. Adam Silver was in Sacramento on Wednesday, and during the telecast of the Raptors/Kings game, he outlined some of his vision for the future and growth of the NBA. Per SB Nation:

“As much as we talk about international [...] I still think there’s an enormous opportunity in the United States. [...] I think this game should be a rival to football. In the United States, it’s the No. 1 participatory sport. We’ve all played it. I want to focus on the game. The business is going well, but this is a beautiful game.”

The NFL sees annual revenues of about $10 billion, compared to the NBA’s $4 billion. NFL playoff TV ratings often double or triple those of the NBA. The annual Harris Interactive poll about sports this year found that 36 percent of respondents consider pro football their favorite sport. Pro basketball claims five percent.

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  • LLC#12

    I’ll probably get some flak here for insulting your beloved sport, but I 100% do not see the attraction of American Football. I’ve watched lots of games and I’ve found each one incredibly boring. I can’t believe it is as popular as it is. Why is it more popular than Basketball in the US?

  • Anthony

    Well, for 1 reason there is the build up. The season is only 16 weeks long, and you only have 1 game a week. So you have a reasonably small window to see your favorite team or favorite player do their thing. When you compare this to 82 opportunities, and if you follow one of the major teams, multiple times to see them on TV there is less proverbial fanatic anxiety when it come to hoops. There is also “tail gating” which in and of itself is a cultural phenomenon married to the sport of “american football” as you guys call it.

  • GP

    The NFL has the benefit of a great schedule and build up, and that plays a part in its popularity. The NBA needs to seriously cut down its season in order to rival the anticipation and excitement that comes with the football season. 82 games is ridiculously long, especially since most of the bad teams are weeded out and filtered by January, leaving us with 3 months of mundane basketball of most teams going through the motions, with the top 2 teams trying and the bottom teams actively tanking.

    I am an avid NBA fan, but I don’t care about the season enough to watch and follow for 5 straight months. You know the general story lines by month 3 and you tune in to the key games (Thunder vs. Heat, hell yes), but you’re not as invested in watching the entire league like you are in November and December.The Bucks vs. Sixers in March excites no one, and attendance figures drop as a result.

    I think the best season in recent memory was 2011-2012, which was, not coincidentally, the lockout season where games did not begin until Christmas. That was a perfect schedule and it made every game matter until the playoffs started.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    the lockout season was the most strenuous season the NBA has ever had. They played an average of a game every 1.8 days or something crazy like that.

  • pposse

    there are a lot of reasons the NFL is popular in America. For one and I hate to bring it up, but if you ask me the main reason for its popularity in my opinion is cause the face of most franchises (the quarterback) are majority one race. People can act like thats not the case but they are fooling themselves if they do.

  • GP

    Good point, I forgot about the back-to-back-to-back-to-back games. I’m sure there is some middle ground that could be attained to make it less strenuous on the players, and less lengthy for the fans.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    i’m in the minority that enjoys the schedule as it is. but i’m also in the minority of people who prefer to watch basketball 12 months a year.
    my main issue with shortening the season is what will happen to the record books. specifically the record books in the 3pt era, but idk if that is reason enough to prevent making the schedule more drama friendly.

  • GP

    I’m sure race plays a part in some ways, but I wouldn’t attest it to just that. I mean, if that was the main reason, then hockey would rule in the States.

    As a Canadian, I really don’t “get” football; I mean, I understand the sport and how it works, but I don’t find it as exciting as people in the States do (don’t even get me started on the CFL). I think the country’s obsession for football has more to do with tradition and a love for the sport being passed down from generation to generation as something inherently “American” more than anything else. Its the same thing with us Canadians and hockey. You’re crazy if you don’t enjoy cheering for the Leafs in Toronto, and I’m sure its the same sentiment shared by people who have local football teams in US cities that they can root for.

  • pposse

    true true, football is a way of life in many places down south there is even some show called friday night tykes! i read a comment a long while back somewhere where the claim was that the NFL emulates organized warfare and thats why we like it. Its a controlled yet violent sport, and even from the early days ie: roman colliseum everyone has been fascinated with violence. NBA has no chance in America to compete with the nfl imo.
    I dont think race is the only reason, but the main reason. I’m real curious as to how the popularity will get impacted in the near future seeing as how the new trend in the league is to have a running qb instead of traditional pocket passer (skills that are generally associated with black qb’s).

    I’m in DC and hockey has gained a lot of ground out here. I used to walk past the verizon center all the time and that whole area would be unbelievably packed on game days, its a hassle to get in and out of the metro station. Back in chicago half my friends hopped on the blackhawk bandwagon, not I but those are the best jerseys in sports history imo.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk

    “i read a comment a long while back somewhere where the claim was that the NFL emulates organized warfare”
    – i’ve heard much the same. but american football evolved from Rugby, idk if War or the strategies of war played a direct role in it’s creation for sure, but still, i’ve heard the same as you.
    the main reason football is more popular than any other sport in the United States is its schedule. Committing 16 days a year to something is much easier than 82, and it being only one day a week allows people to prepare for it much the same as a mini holiday. race of quarterbacks plays no role whatsoever in its popularity. and there is no correlation to the race of a quarterback and any given teams popularity from one year to another.

  • http://twitter.com/niQknacks niQ

    For the record, that Raptors vs Sacramento game was one of the worst reffed game I’ve seen all season. The fact that Silver was at that game and saw the Kings go to the FT Line 51 times is a joke.

  • Sérgio

    Well said.

  • bike

    Football games at all levels, HS, college, and pro are events. The Super Bowl’s popularity is due in part to two weeks of hype and parties that last all Sunday. B-ball games, especially nba, not so much. Too many meaningless games. It’s hard to see how race would factor in since both the nfl and nba have a high percentage of blacks now even at the quarterback position.

  • spit hot fiyah

    never sleep on violence as a form of entertainment

  • pposse

    im just comin from the perspective that the nfl has done so much these past couple years to ensure the safety of ‘pocket passing’ qb’s. Such as getting flagged 15 yards for tapping a qb on the head by accident. Meanwhile the scouting and league in general are looking for smash mouth style of qb’s. I ask myself, why preserve this aerial attack qb with ridiculous rules, when the teams are not even looking for these guys to run the offense to begin with?

  • Slick Ric

    NFL does have a large amount of Blacks but the faces of the league are QB’s , who are generally white i.e Tom Brady, Peyton Manning etc…There are other factors though, due to the short season, it may be considered more fun for some as well. It gives it a due or die feeling like March Madness I suppose.

  • LakeShow

    Good luck…

    Here’s how the majority of ‘Muricans view life in order of importance:


  • LakeShow

    The sport has only gotten more popular as more African Americans (including QB’s) have entered.

    Not saying you’re wrong, but saying that it appears to be progressive.

  • bike

    They have been but they also have been the best QBs. The trend in starting black NFL QBs is acclerating and sooner or later one or more will emerge as the premier player at the position. Russel Wilson may very well be the first.

  • Quesy Dan Man

    As long as there’s 82 games a season it will never be as popular. 16 games in football gives it that spectacle feel.

  • robb

    Nobody can get pissed at you for that man, you’re not insulting anything or anyone, you just don’t like it and that’s completely understandable. I love football almost as much as I love basketball, both are incredibly fun and exciting sports, both have incredible athletes who can make out of this world plays.

    Why football is as popular as it is? IDK there’s something about football that feels special, maybe it’s because of the schedule, maybe it’s because most games are played on sunday and it feels like a special day. Maybe it’s because of it’s played in a stadium, I really don’t know, but the fact is that I love it.

  • Respect

    Not happening, basketball is too predictable

  • b

    i disagree with that completely….if more white people can change a sports popularity why is baseball becoming less and less popular?

  • b

    couldn’t of said it better my self….race really has nothing to do with it. its just every game matters. im a huge basketball fan, but the regular season can get boring and is probably too long.

  • pposse

    every year more and more foreign born players are making the final mlb roster.

  • Feez_22

    As a fan of football, i also hate those rules. Might as well put a flag on the quarterback.

    However, you have to acknowledge that the nfl also put just as impactful rules in place to ensure the safety of wide receivers, tight ends and pass catchers in general. Helmet to helmet and unnecessary roughness calls are called in droves in nfl games which affect the outcome of said games more than some of these roughing the passer calls. Heck… if a college football defender goes helmet to helmet or “targets” a pass catcher, they are now ejected and have to serve a half game suspension.

    I think that the nfl imposing these rules is sort of comparable to what the nba did in terms of removing handchecking and re-defining what counts as a flagrant/flagrant 2/technical foul. It is being done in part to open up the game so that teams can score more. Casual fans love high scoring no matter what the sport which is partly why the nfl decided to put in rules to protect offensive skill players.

    However, i understand your observation. The nfl really started to up the anti on these pass catcher rules because of the concussion lawsuits against them. Opening up the game may have been secondary to that primary concern but is a result nonetheless.

    The qb rules really started to get ridiculous when tom brady (nfl’s golden boy) had his acl torn by a defender going low. Since then, the full on coddling of the STAR pocket passing qb became a priority. I emphasize star because many non star pocket passing qb’s don’t get those types of calls.

  • b

    true, and i dont keep up with baseball too much anymore but i still do notice the majority seems to be white. and what about hockey? with ur logic on football shouldnt that be the most poular sport?

  • pposse

    dont get me wrong i never said its the only reason, just one of the major ones, others made good points brought up the fact that its on a sunday, only 16 games, each game is an event, etc. etc. Also football simulates war kind of, hockey doesnt at all. Hockey i think is gaining popularity though, I have a couple family members who have there kids playin hockey right now and hell i never even knew these cousins even paid attention to hockey.

  • pposse

    i don’t think you can look at it from one year to the next in regards to the popularity part. Like once and if the top guys end up being guys like Russell Wilson, Kaepernick, Cam Newton etc. etc. you would have to re-examine the ratings over those years vs right now or this generation of the sport.

  • Ugh

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t MLB and NHL have far more white players than the NFL?

    FTR, I’m sure what you say is a significant factor, but this does seem to be a bit of a hole in your argument.

  • pposse

    i addressed some of that, hockey is gaining popularity if I’m not mistaken and baseball is losing popularity or at least seems to be losing popularity as the rate of foreign born players are becoming a higher percentage of final mlb rosters.

  • X

    I think you are being pretty naive. The most visible athlete’s are the NBA players. The majority of the NBA is comprised of young, urban, black men. Not exactly a recipe for mainstream American dominance in terms of popularity. NFL players, aside from really good QB’s, aren’t nearly as recognizable. The race of the players isn’t nearly as noticeable as the league where 10 guys are running around in shorts and tanks. Their faces and tattoos aren’t as visible due to more concealing uniforms and the shear number of players on each team. Look at the controversy that erupted from Kaepernick’s appearance. He was “too urban” looking to fit the all American QB look according to a lot of ignorant people. Baseball may not be as popular as football, but it’s still considered “America’s game”. To deny the involvement of race in the matter is to deny the obvious.

    I agree with all of your other points, but we can’t just exclude certain social realities just because they make us uncomfortable. The issue has many layers, and race is but one of those layers. Other than that, I feel you were pretty spot on.

  • X

    Good point about baseball losing popularity and the rise of the number of non-white foreign players. The funny thing is, for all of the people claiming race has nothing to do with anything, there are tons of writers who have written on the subject. I’m not claiming race is the only factor, but ignoring race all together seems immature. Not every reality is going to make us comfortable. Hockey has never been a top three American sport, so its inclusion in the discussion doesn’t add anything to it.

  • Ugh

    Not sure about that. From what I can tell, most ‘Muricans are fine with putting all kinds of impurities in their air, food and worship practices, but changing the rules to sports or having someone of another race, religion or nationality join your family seem pretty volatile concepts.