The Decision (part 2)

Before I begin talking about the upcoming NBA finals, I just wanted to add a couple words on Lebron James.  As you’ve seen, I posted a long(ish) article about the “Decision” and why I thought it was such a bad idea.  Well, one very weird story that I’ve been hearing and reading a lot in the media over the last week or so has been that the SuperFriends’ get together was/is good for the NBA.  Needless to say, I think this is total garbage.  The evidence used currently to support such theories is that the ratings for the NBA have never been better for the NBA at large and for the Miami Heat specifically.  Three things about this trend: 1) it’s extremely short-term 2) it can’t tell why people are watching 3) higher viewership does not equal “good for the NBA.”  Let me explain.

I question the bump in ratings as meaning more people are interested in the NBA and instead see it as a fad.  Lebron James and the Miami Heat were a huge story last summer, drawing obscene amounts of coverage without ever an NBA game being played.  Lebron became an American celebrity (with all its negative connotations) rather than simply a basketball superstar and people are watching now for two reasons: to keep up with the hype and to cheer against him.  Being a fad, then, rather than a trend, I don’t see these higher ratings as sustainable.  This brings me to my second point.  Most people viewing the Bulls v Heat series above the normal levels, I would bet, are simply there to root either for or against Lebron and the SuperFriends, rather than their interest in basketball at large.  What this means is that as soon as the Heat win the finals (ie, possibly in a couple weeks), the anti-Heat fans will simply vanish into thin air.

Finally, here’s what I think is happening (as it relates to point #3).  No matter how you cut it, these “new” NBA viewers are essentially “fair weather friends.”  They will never attend games, buy apparel or subscribe to NBA TV.  Instead, they might watch a quarter or two on tv before switching to whatever garbage is on prime-time; check the scores online to have something to talk about at work or with family; or check out a game to find out what all the fuss over Lebron and the Heat is.  But you say, how can that possibly hurt the NBA.  That’s the catch, the Heat draw in lots of fair weather fans, but drive away the die-hards from Cleveland, Toronto, Denver, Utah and Phoenix.  Those are the fans that are losing out, because their stars are moving to the glitzy cities on the coasts.  The thing is that even the most die-hard fans don’t follow their teams to watch them lose; they follow their teams in the hopes of a better future.  If the NBA thinks that “super-teams” will boost its revenue, I would beg to differ, because they will also be relegating half the teams in the league to perpetual obscurity and futility.  The quality of play, the entertainment value and the league’s revenue will all suffer.

So since this post got out of hand very quickly, I’m going to simply post it as is and give my finals preview in another post, rather than run onto about 1500 words.

Yours Truly,

Basketblogger

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