“There are more people playing basketball every day in China, 300 million, than reside in the United States.”
Let that sink in.
David Falk; the innovative agent that represented Michael Jordan and many of his great contemporaries in the 1990’s, recently said this in a great article my friend Dan Klores wrote for The Undefeated (I highly recommend you check it out).
This is why I’m not afraid to proclaim that basketball; not soccer, is the world’s biggest sport.
Last weekend, I hung out at this year’s NBA All-Star Weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina, and it was amazing. The festivities completely took over the city, almost Super Bowl-like. The league treats each All-Star host city with such respect and class. Players inspired and influenced young kids, while Hall of Famers from the men and women’s games also made their presence felt. They left Charlotte better than they found it.
Basketball is a sport that brings all of us together. No matter your shape, size, ethnicity, gender- basketball crosses all lines and is welcoming to all.
Dan and I discussed just how special the game is on an episode of my Project X show:
In the NBA, so many players appear to be close with one another. I don’t think that’s as apparent in other leagues as it is in the NBA.
The NBA is a fraternity. So many players remain involved in the league after retiring from the game in ownership, coaching, or executive roles. Look at Magic Johnson’s impact, or Michael Jordan’s, or even Charles Barkley’s from the commentating side.
There’s no denying that the NBA is a financial powerhouse too. It was estimated in a Fortune article last year that the league is projected to eclipse over $68 billion in revenue by 2029. By comparison, the same article predicts the NFL’s revenue will grow to about $28 billion by that same time - less than half. And we say the NFL is America’s game...
Business Insider’s Top 18 most famous athletes in the world in 2018 list featured 3 basketball players in its top 10 rankings - LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Stephen Curry; with LeBron ranking 2nd overall. Their best players are not only ambassadors of their own game, but their influence reaches people worldwide. And most of them not only understand their influence on and off the court, but embrace getting to be role models for future generations. They aren’t sprinting away from that title the way a lot of them used to. They’re articulate, active, and available; investing in tech companies, apparel and setting an example for future generations.
And the women’s game is right behind them too. Perhaps they don’t have the same reach - but the interest is rising with each passing year. Teenage girls seem to be trending towards basketball over soccer now, which wasn’t the case ten years ago.
Why has basketball been so successful, you ask? Well, it starts from the top down in my view. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is the best and most dynamic of the 4 major US sports commissioners. He’s been able to bridge the gap and create a mutual respect between the players, owners and media. It’s so pleasant to see a league have such a strong relationship with its players.
The league also has great relationships with TV stations, with truly entertaining personalities representing the game on pregame shows and talk shows. The shows are closely managed, but still give hosts and analysts enough room to speak their minds without sounding filtered or controlled.
Not only that, but they also seem to be first to innovate with up and coming ideas. They were first to implement gambling, and their esports league is taking off entering just its second season this year. Hell, they even introduced a digital jersey for fans to easily customize at All-Star weekend. They are trend setters, and the other major leagues have to do what they can to keep up with their pace.
All of these advances can be made when a league is in unison. If you want a tighter organization, everyone has to be on the same page.
When you add up all of the competition around the world on both the men and women’s sides, I think it's fair to say that basketball reigns supreme as the biggest sport in the country, and potentially even the world. People will argue that soccer is, and there’s no denying how successful it’s been, but basketball is #1 in my book.
By the way, David Stern, you should be smiling, because you played a big part in creating this winnable game. This is a league we need to all stop and tip our caps to.
Quote of the Day: "Even when I'm old and grey, I won't be able to play it, but I'll still love the game." - Michael Jordan
Song of the Day: "He Got Game" by Public Enemy
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