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A twist on the “baseball is dying” thing: the NBA is killing it!

Oct 31, 2012, 1:59 PM EST

Kurtis Blow

Saying that the NFL is more popular than baseball is both (a) true; and (b) old hat. It has become such an obvious thing that I didn’t even blink when I heard Frank DeFord say it for the ten millionth time just this morning, and most of what Frank DeFord says drives me kinda bonkers.

But how about basketball? Are NBA people knocking baseball down as a passe pastime? Yup!

Patrick Rishe of Forbes does it today, using the World Series’ low ratings as a hook.  And even though the article can’t truthfully claim that the NBA is a bigger business (for it is not) or that it gets consistently higher ratings on its telecasts (it doesn’t, though see below), it has the big mo!

There is little doubt that MLB still generates more revenue than the NBA … But when you consider that the NBA’s crescendo has outpaced baseball’s in each of the last 3 years (as the table shows below), this lends further credence to a changing of the guard.

And it’s hip!  The article goes on to note that “hip outplays slow,” “progressive outplays blind adherence to tradition,” and “athleticism and showmanship drive brand awareness more so than ever before.” Oh, and “baseball has no hipster feel,” the author says, as if that’s a bad thing. But the real thrust of the argument is about commerce. About how basketball stars have “personal brands” and how they have bigger endorsement deals.

What really gets me, though is the windup:

But baseball may one day (if not soon or already based on the data presented herein) be relegated to America’s 3rd most popular consumer sport if the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and the soon-to-be new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver have anything to say about it.

The “data presented herein” is Rishe’s own caveat-laden talk about the TV ratings — Rishe himself notes that the NBA has had high-powered Finals matchups in recent years, but even those don’t compare to the ratings the Yankees got in the 2009 World Series or any World Series matchups before that — and some stuff about how NBA stars are more marketable than baseball players. Which, by the way, has always been true, even back when the NBA was teetering on the edge of oblivion.

But even then, at the end, he still concedes that the NBA is likely third, pending the big stars of the NBA and its new commissioner actually doing something about it change things. Which … they haven’t been trying to do already? Well, I’m convinced. Indeed, I haven’t been as convinced by a comparison since I read Rishe’s article about how Josh Hamilton is just like Whitney Houston last winter.

How about this:  the NBA, thanks to the recent dominance of marquee teams and exceedingly marketable players, is currently riding a nice wave, not unlike the sorts of waves it always rides when there are dominant, marketable players and/or the Lakers or Celtics are good. Baseball, meanwhile, has had a couple of World Series with matchups that don’t do much for national ratings. And given that there are probably no two major sports which serve more disparate demographics than do the NBA and Major League Baseball, marketing and star power is kind of irrelevant as a point of comparison.

But hey, I know apples/oranges analysis like that is not as sexy a story to write the week baseball season ends and the NBA season begins, so you keep on keeping on with it, bro.

108 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. raider2124 - Oct 31, 2012 at 5:50 PM

    If hockey never had the two lockouts it would have surpassed the NBA. Nobody watches it. It’s a reflection on ghetto society and it will never sell to white America. When bird and magic left so did the NBA. they pushed thugs like iverson to be the face of the NBA and it failed historically. Look at ratings on a celtics lakers finals and compare it to today’s ratings. A Sunday matchup between the two would pull a 35 share NBA finals are lucky to get a 6 share now. See ya NBA nobody will miss u.

    • historiophiliac - Oct 31, 2012 at 7:00 PM

      Thank god Oklahoma City has such a massive black population then.

    • bigmeechy74 - Oct 31, 2012 at 10:07 PM

      You are stupid. That’s all I got.

      • bigmeechy74 - Oct 31, 2012 at 10:08 PM

        That was intended for the guy that said hockey would pass basketball by the way

  2. raider2124 - Oct 31, 2012 at 6:09 PM

    What makes inverson a thug you ask. Beating his wife and throwing her naked in front if the house. Numerous run in with the law. Getting pulled over with drugs and weapons. Do I need to go on? Practice? Proved my point

  3. libertynchurch - Oct 31, 2012 at 6:17 PM

    Baseball is losing ground because the kids are not playing anymore. The other sports are grabbing the best athletes, and baseball is fast becoming another victim of American Outsourcing. For decades, baseball has depended upon the grass roots interest begining with a father teaching the fundamentals of the game to his son. Now, fathers and sons crunch numbers, while depending upon foreigners to actually practice with a ball, bat and glove.

    Baseball needs hands-on experience to understand the strategy. Thats why its the hardest sport to watch with a newbie. No frame of reference as to whats happening during the downtime. And this is why it is dying. Americans have more access to various forms of entertainment. Short attention spans wont try to understand the subleties of the game.

    MLB needs to follow the lead of these other sports. Help the kids want to be like Mike. Trout. I remember that I limped like Willie Mays for years. Mom finally made me stop. Ask yourselves, when is the last time you saw a kid rushing to a field trying to do it like Willie, or Mickey, or Sandy? And thats whats wrong.

    • phalatek6 - Oct 31, 2012 at 10:05 PM

      We’re out there!!!

      When I was younger, playing catch with my dad, I was Ripken, Griffey, Big Hurt, Manny, and Bonds.

      My 4 year old is Adam Jones. I hope it continues.

    • tashkalucy - Oct 31, 2012 at 10:46 PM

      Totally spot on comment!

      I was on here yesterday when Craig was doing one of his vendetta things against a San Francisco writer that talked about the Giants winning without saber discipline. Craig noted correctly that the Giants did in fact have a department and that they were instrumental in the acquisition of many of the WS winning players. But he went on to extol how magical sabermetrics are in baseball, and the readers piled on the San Francisco writer like old west townspeople trying to string up the people arrested and in jail without a trial.

      When I posted I was slammed.

      And every single argument is the same as the arguments based here in the comment section for years – it’s always about 1) personality or image (including a statement a baseball person made) or 2) on one sided metrics (“he” never won a World Series so how good can he be).

      If you read the comments here there is little discussion of rudimentary baseball fundmantals – can batters move runners up, doesthe OF hit the cut-off man, is the cut-off man in position and is his teammate watching the runners and yell to him which base to throw to when he gets the ball (as his back is to the infield), is the pitcher changing speeds and working around the plate, is the batter setting the pitcher up, is the pitcher setting the batter up, is the catcher calling a good game, is the pitcher in sync with what the manager and pitching coach are trying to do in bribng along each pitcher on the staff…..and on and on. Instead the comments are on WAR (this years glamour stat which replaced OPS which replaced OBP which replaced BA) and on and on.

      I initially cam on here hoping to talk baseball in the comment section. Very few want to. One guy told me that there were hundreds of publications that talked that crap, they wanted to talk about other things regarding baseball. Well, you are correct – it’s not just hardballTalk – it’s the entire way this people have been looking at baseball in ALL publications since Billy Bean came into view and told us all how important OPS was (which Branch Rickey started using in the 1930’s).

      Teams that play intelligent baseball have been winning in the playoffs and Wold Series for years no over teams with superior talent that are one-sided and haven’t stretched their individual games to contribute to the teams game. It’s a pity what’s happened to MLB. But this is a generation that loves the NBA players dissing one another like WWF guys promoting their next match. Professional sports as we once knew them are dying and are being replaced by carnival barkers – and the information explosion combined with American’s looking for the glitz as opposed to respecting hard work is making it happen.

      • cur68 - Oct 31, 2012 at 11:38 PM

        You are still wrong, no matte how you spin it today.

      • lovistemiami - Nov 1, 2012 at 9:32 AM

        You know tash.. you aren’t actually saying anything. Five paragraphs and I still have no idea what your point is – sabermetrics are sorta bad is the best I could come up with.

  4. cosanostra71 - Oct 31, 2012 at 7:57 PM

    who cares? as long as American sports networks aren’t showing cricket, does it really matter? I like basketball, baseball, football, hockey and yes even soccer. Just enjoy them all!

  5. metalhead65 - Oct 31, 2012 at 8:53 PM

    what makes baseball seem unhip are stat geeks like you who insist on inventing new stats to judge players by instead of what they do on the field. guy wins a triple crown and leads his team to the world series but he should not be mvp because he did not have a good enough average in games starting at 5:00 and overcast skies or some other stupid stat those of us who do follow the game on our phones or laptops care about. I am tied about how stuck in the past I am and need to get with saber metrics,you will never get me to change the way I look at the game and if keep insisting and acting superior about your one day those predictions that people make about baseball being a dying sport will be true.you will wake up and it will be behind the nfl,nba and soccer.

    • lovistemiami - Nov 1, 2012 at 9:34 AM

      I had no idea defense is now considered a sabermetric stat? But hey, he didn’t win a gold glove either so you’re probably right.

    • sirrahh - Nov 3, 2012 at 12:14 AM

      Well said! Baseball has inspired art (poetry, novels, songs, visual imagery, etc) like no other sport ever could. And the stats crowd that goes on about BABIP and all of that stuff doesn’t get it. Their obsession with the quantitative elements of the game is equal parts amusing and pathetic. A man throws a ball to another man who will then try to hit it. It’s just that simple, or it can be, if that’s all you want from it.

      • metalhead65 - Nov 3, 2012 at 12:55 AM

        wow thank you for agreeing with me. I was beginning to think I was the only one who felt that way. I know it looks like I am a idiot when I type but I get so frustrated sometimes I just start pounding away and hit post before checking my spelling. would not be a problem if this cheap site had a edit function. I think craig likes not having one so he can sound more superior in his high and mighty geek responses

  6. randygnyc - Oct 31, 2012 at 10:18 PM

    Chicitybulls- you must be new around here. I have a history on HBT of calling out pitchers who throw at batters intentionally. There is no place for it in the game.

    • chicitybulls - Nov 1, 2012 at 9:30 AM

      If you have then that’s fine and commendable. However it was omitted before and you singled out basketball players and their antics. You said you didn’t like basketball because of their “savage” behavior yet you overlook it in baseball. Just seems hypocritical to me.

  7. libertynchurch - Oct 31, 2012 at 11:30 PM

    @tashkalucy Preach On, brother!

  8. mattypbillsmafia - Oct 31, 2012 at 11:40 PM

    Professional basketball is probably the most unentertaining sport… Ever… Omg an uncontested break away dunk while you’re either leading or losing by 20? Awesome! That’s like putting a juke move on nothing before an empty net goal, which would result in getting your a$$ kicked in hockey, but totally acceptable in the NBA, by 7 foot men… Dwight Howard had 20 pts an 20 rebounds in a game? He should have 60 pts and 60 rebounds every game, he’s 7 feet tall, coordinated and built like a brick $hithouse, not impressive.

    As far as hipsters go, I laugh everytime I see someone with a skull cap and a grizzly Adams beard in the middle of July on a 90 degree day with skinny Jeans on that are prolly as uncomfortable as F$@€
    I drink PBR too nerd, but I pay $15 for 30, you’re not sweet cause you pay $6 for one can, you candy a$$ pos.

  9. williegy - Nov 1, 2012 at 12:40 PM

    College basketball is something I enjoy watching very much, but the NBA is a crashing BORE.The regular season is endless & means little. Only the very worst NBA teams don’t get into the playoffs, and even most of the playoff teams have no chance of winning the championship. The playoffs go on forever (they last two solid months) and there is seldom any drama in them-the better team almost always wins.I’d be willing to bet a good deal of money that the two teams in NEXT JUNE’S NBA finals will be the LA Lakers & the Miami Heat. That match up might be mildly interesting, but I can’t say I really care which team wins.

    Even the NBA players view the regular season as sort of a joke. Many of them loaf through those games at half speed. And, far too often, the NBA players themselves are more off putting than anything else. Many of them are grossly overpaid, clueless prima-donnas who take what they have for granted & don’t care about anything but themselves & their contracts. One high profile NBA player famously told the press several years ago that wins & losses “are just another statistic”. If the players don’t even care who wins NBA games why should I?

    The league lost me after Bird, Magic, & MJ retired.Their replacements, on the whole, are nothing but a bunch of spoiled brats. If there weren’t an NBA season this year, I’m not sure I’d even notice.

  10. dowhatifeellike - Nov 1, 2012 at 2:49 PM

    My take on basketball (not just the NBA) is this: How am I supposed to be excited about a game where you score 40 or 50 or 60 times and still lose? Tennis is the same way.

    In football, baseball, and hockey, the scoring is the exciting part. HOW the point, goal, etc. was scored is secondary.

    In today’s basketball, style is paramount. No matter how cool it looks, though, it’s still just 2 points. You can do the super cool dunk 25 more times but it doesn’t make you a winner.

  11. raider2124 - Nov 1, 2012 at 6:22 PM

    Doing time for smashing someone in the face with a chair. For one instance. Cops were called to iversons house numerous times for domestic violence. A’s I surged before his wife was blodsy and naked on his front lawn. Google it pal

  12. yahmule - Nov 1, 2012 at 8:48 PM

    I haven’t watched an NBA game since about 2004. I grew up following the Lakers, dating back to the last days of West and Wilt and I probably saw more than 90% of the games Magic Johnson played in during his career.

    The infantile squabbling between Shaq and Kobe pretty much killed my enthusiasm for the NBA. There is no bigger player’s league in professional sports. If your team’s star happens to dislike the coach, then you better damn well believe that coach is going to eventually be fired. I remember seeing Rasheed Wallace play like he didn’t give a shit for Portland, while being among the highest paid players in the league. Then when he got traded to a contender in Detroit, Bill Walton and the other boobs announcing NBA games lavished him with praise. It was nauseating.

    Obviously, there are plenty of hardcore NBA fans who love the sport and I’m glad they enjoy the games. I don’t miss watching them at all.

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