NBA Popularity: A Growing Phenomenon

by Pat Gunther

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With another NBA All-Star Game in the books, the second half of the season looks promising. An incredible weekend in Los Angeles drew millions of viewers, something that is now a trend in the NBA. With increasing numbers in viewers and merchandise sales, the NBA is becoming one of the world’s premier forms of entertainment.

After a decade of poor ratings, character issues and boring games, the NBA is recently enjoying the success it did throughout the 1980’s. Players such as Magic Johnson and Larry Bird captured the interest of basketball fans everywhere, while a young Michael Jordan amazed fans with his high-flying acrobatic slam dunks and competitiveness that could not be matched. The 1980’s and 1990’s provided the NBA with television ratings and popularity that has yet to be matched.

The 1998 NBA Finals were the highest rated in history, an interest that quickly waned in the coming years. In the early 2000’s, the NBA took a turn for the worse. Character issues and overpaid busts plagued the league for the better half of a decade. After nearly eight years of low ratings and boring NBA finals, the 2007 off-season was interesting for several reasons. Rookies like Kevin Durant and Al Horford would become the faces of their respective franchises in the years to come, while trades allowed the Boston Celtics to become a perennial powerhouse after years of irrelevancy.  The acquisitions of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen gave the league’s oldest team toughness and mass appeal.

As the 2007-2008 regular seasons began, the Celtics and Lakers were once again among the NBA’s top teams. On February 1, 2008 the Lakers acquired a player that would put them into the league’s upper echelon. All-Star Power Forward Pau Gasol gave Los Angeles the opportunity to reach the NBA finals against their hated rival the Boston Celtics. That season’s NBA Finals were the highest rated since 2004, and drastically improved the popularity of the NBA.

After a Celtics victory and return to prominence in 2008, the Lakers made a run at the Finals for the next two years. Both teams’ dominance in the past drastically improved the popularity of professional basketball, not only in America, but also across the globe.

Young blood Kevin Durant

As the 2010-2011 NBA season began, the Miami Heat’s big three of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade, the return of Kevin Garnett and the potential of a third consecutive Lakers championship were among the NBA’s most interesting stories. Rivalries such as the Bulls and Celtics were rekindled with the stellar play of Bulls’ star Derrick Rose and the Celtics’ Eastern Conference dominance. The Miami Heat’s Big Three entertained, and infuriated fans with their impressive play.

In mid February, the All-Star festivities rolled around as they do every year. This year, however, was different than the All-Star Games of the past decade. Millions of viewers tuned in as Kobe Bryant captured his fourth All-Star Game MVP in his hometown of Los Angeles.

The increasing success of NBA All-Star events and regular season games shows just how popular the association is getting. With young super-stars such as Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose, and LeBron James, the NBA will be reaping the benefits of high merchandise sales, record highs in Nielsen Ratings (a system television shows use to determine ratings) and increases in attendance.

If you are not an NBA fan yet, watch at least one playoff game this season, and you will find out why the NBA is quickly gaining ground as one of the world’s premier forms of athletic entertainment.

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