View Full Version : Are these dark times for the NBA?

06-20-2005, 01:04 AM
The question just came to mind, and I've been weighing the pro's and con's to figure it out. The NBA seems to have serious image problems these days. Sure, the basket-brawl didn't help, but still, that seems to be a symptom, not a cause. Players like Ron Artest, Latrell Sprewell, and Rasheed Wallace have all hurt the game in their own way, by making NBA players look like arrogant, hot-headed punks. Furthermore, many fans seemingly resent NBA players for being paid millions of dollars. This problem is compounded by the dispute between the players and the league, which could result in another lockout, although that looks like it will be avoided. And lastly, this years finals have turned out to be the worst case senario for ratings, even if it was the most likely senario. San Antonio and Detroit; a complete and utter snooze-fest, not only devoid of actual scoring, but also any sense of drama and/or star power. The biggest star in this series is Tim Duncan (yawn). No Kobe/Shaq, no Shaq/D-Wayde, no Iverson, no T-Mac, no Amare, and especially... no LeBron. All of these things have combined for lackluster ratings, and an overall decline in the general popularity of the game. Still, there is some good news. Things might seem bad for the NBA, but they don't even begin to compare to the problems that currently plague the NHL. And no matter what, even if it's a seven game series between the Spurs and the Pistons, basketball will never be as boring as baseball. Lastly, the game today is not short of young, exciting stars such as Dwayne Wade, Amare Stoudemire, and of course, LeBron James. And besides, the NBA has definately seen worse times; particularly the late 1970's when ratings were atrocious and the league seemed to have a serious cocaine problem. Luckily two players named Magic Johnson and Larry Bird came along, but that's a whole other story. So when you consider all of these things, what do you think? Are these good days, or bad days for the NBA?

06-20-2005, 10:19 AM
tattoos, cornrows, gangsta rap, and overt thuggery...

what do you think?

06-20-2005, 11:14 AM
The NBA Finals has a chance to go 7 for the first time in 10 years. 6 teams averaged 100 points or more. There are so many reasons to watch NBA basketball. Their are hot heads arrogant sons of bitches in all sports. Baseball Barry Bonds, Jose Guillen, etc. Football Ray Caruth death row, Jamal Lewis is in a half way house. Last time I checked Wallace was not on either. The dude gets a bumb rap.

Team basketball wins now in the NBA. Kobe, AI, T-Mac, Shaq,Dwade, Carmelo, Lebron, KG, and Dirk none are in the finals. All are great players with the exception of Melo in their own right. These are definitely good times.

The entire NBA playoffs has been really good. Rockets-Mavs, Mavs-Suns, and Suns Spurs were all fantastic series. Other very watchable games Pistons-Sixers, Celtics-Pacers and Spurs Seattle. The East still has a chance for back to back champs albeit a small chance.

06-21-2005, 07:30 AM
As a fan, I'm not sure I even care that fewer trend-hoppers, with attention spans shorter than those of gnats, have flittered away to watch (or not watch) something else.

There has been at least one very good matchup to watch per playoff round, and the basketball has been very, very satisfying. Mavs v. Rox; Mavs v. Suns; Spurs v. Suns; Heat v. Pistons; Celtics v. Pacers; even Pacers v. Pistons.

Even the four so-called "blowouts" that started the NBA Finals were far from unwatchable if you were interested to see whether the balance of the Spurs could overcome the defensive extreme of the Pistons. All four of those home-team winning "blowouts" set the stage for that Game 5, with the Pistons feeling the momentum building, and the Spurs feeling the pressure increasing. For anyone wanting to watch a fiercely competitive game, between two tough-minded teams led by two tough-minded coaches, a basketball fan could scarcely have asked for better. (Admittedly for some tabloid-reading faux-fan, waiting with baited breath to see whether Kobe would actually go a whole game without passing to Shaq, or whether Shaq would actually bitch-slap Kobe while blocking one of his shots, the series may have been less satisfying.)

Clearly there are several reasons why the NBA has seen its viewership erode--probably the major reason is the decline of the teams in the major markets. But do you just want to have it a given that a team from either LA, Chicago or NY will ALWAYS be in the finals? And not just ANY team either. It would have to be the Lakers, or the Knicks----neither the Clippers nor the Nets seem to be able to attract that much interest, even though they are ostensibly in major media markets.

Without even much fanfare, we've seen the competitive balance between the Western and Eastern conferences pretty much corrected. That can certainly be seen as a good thing--having one or two teams in each conference with legitimate chances to win the championship. (Mavericks fans who've lost interest in the Finals may not realize it, but I think the Mavericks would have given the Spurs a better Series than did the Suns--which means that they were that much closer to a championship. Damn those Suns. Damn Dampier.)

The NBA may be attracting less interest in domestic television markets, but as the viewerships expands across the globe, what was the effect on global viewership of having Yao Ming v. Dirk in a very hotly competed 7-games series? Does Nielsen capture that? No.

Or the effect of having an international star like Ginóbili performing well in a tough 6 or 7-game series against the Pistons?

Hell, as a nation the French may never get the beauty of the NBA, but even Frenchman Tony Parker has done his part to stir interest among the tabloid set by throwing ABC a tabloid bone with his "relationship" with Eva Longoria.

I'm not too concerned about the overall popularity of the NBA. From a fan's standpoint, it might even make ticket prices more reasonable for the game to be less of a circus. I know it's far easier to get tickets to a NYKs game when the team is performing poorly, and they are not seen as an "A-list" destination for the beautiful people.

I'm just going to enjoy the very high-quality basketball that's been available this year, and not wonder (let alone worry) why the rest of the world doesn't like what I like.


Sports Media and Business
What if They Held an N.B.A. Finals and No One Bothered to Watch?

Published: June 21, 2005

During a timeout after Robert Horry's 3-point shot put San Antonio up for good with 5.8. seconds left in overtime in Game 5 of the N.B.A. finals against Detroit, ABC's Al Michaels said to Hubie Brown, his partner on the broadcast, "Classic."

The game, Brown said, "has been absolutely fantastic."

The thriller yielded a 10.1 preliminary overnight Nielsen rating - not great, but better than national ratings that never crept over a 7.2 for the first four games, all unwatchable blowouts. Going in, ABC Sports was hamstrung by teams whose styles of play are not snazzy and whose rosters lack magical, broadly recognizable stars. If only the Lakers were here, you could hear the N.B.A. and the network whisper.

The N.B.A. finals have become like "The 4400," the USA Network science-fiction series in which a spaceship releases 4,400 people, who have been abducted over several decades, to lives unalterably changed. Each returns with special powers.

It appears that someone has abducted the fans who used to watch the N.B.A. finals, and time will tell if they will return like hoops-crazy Harry Potters with N.B.A. logos zapped by lightning into their rubber foreheads. Those missing viewers appear to have departed year after year since Michael Jordan's last appearance in the finals, in 1998 with the Bulls; those finals generated a viewership of 29 million. In the post-Jordan era, finals viewership has never been better than 18.9 million, when the Lakers beat the Sixers in 2001, meaning a loss of 10.1 million viewers. Where have they gone? Can they all be victims of the erosion of network viewership, or is something more sinister afoot?

Last year, viewership stood at 17.9 million when the Pistons beat the Lakers. In 2002, when the Lakers beat the Nets, it was 15.7 million. In 2003, the Spurs-Nets finals had a viewership of 9.9 million.

Get the pattern? The Lakers equal survival, not like the 1990's Bulls, but better than the Nets, the Spurs or the Pistons.

That is undoubtedly why after Game 1, ABC Sports made note in a news release that "compared to the last N.B.A. finals matchup not to feature the L.A. Lakers," the 7.2 rating was 13 percent better than Game 1 of the Nets-Spurs series in 2003. Yes, that was a productive comparison. The Spurs-Pistons matchup is a low-rated series, so comparing it with one that that rated even lower was one way to obscure the obvious.

ABC has tried to prove that the best way to measure its finals success is not through ratings, which are down 35 percent from last year through the first four games, or through viewership, which is down 37 percent, but through important demographics like adults 18 to 49 and men 18 to 49.

The demographic ratings for the first four games were the highest in prime time each night, which is good for ABC, but not necessarily anything to boast about.

The series is averaging 5.8 million viewers among adults 18 to 49, down 40 percent from last year, and 3.8 million among men in that demographic, down 38 percent. Both measurements are up from 2003 - the most recent year in which the Lakers were not in the finals - but down around 40 percent in each one since 2001, when NBC carried the Lakers' defeat of the Sixers.

Where have all those coveted viewers gone?

If one compares the N.B.A. finals with "Monday Night Football," it isn't a hit. These are the finals, for Duncan's sake, not regular-season games. Yet among men 18 to 49, "Monday Night Football" rated 34 percent better this season. "Desperate Housewives," a guilty pleasure among those men, rated 17 percent higher. ABC is nonetheless pleased. "On balance, the finals are doing what ABC wants them to do," said Mark Mandel, a spokesman for ABC Sports. "We keep on winning the nights and doing well against the competition. We're achieving our goals."

He said that the network was not distressed by the mystery of the disappearing viewership and that it hoped to get some of those missing folks back.

"The people ABC is interested in watching are doing so, enabling the network to win the nights, thereby achieving our goals," he said.

David Stern, the N.B.A. commissioner, refused to comment.

The reasons for declining viewership are not secret: the absence of Jordan, which has permanently reshaped the league; the overabundance of the N.B.A. on cable TV, especially on ESPN, at the expense of the promotional power that NBC brought to the league; the rise of teams like Detroit, the No. 10 market, and San Antonio, ranked No. 37; and the falls from grace of the Knicks, the Lakers and the Bulls. Viewers also have numerous other choices, like video games and the Internet, to distract them from televised sports and other programming.

And so far, any new viewers that were expected to be realized by ESPN through its multimedia platforms have not materialized for ABC, its corporate sibling under the Walt Disney Corporation.

The case of the absentee finals viewers is a reversal for a league that once happily outdid the World Series - when it seemed Stern's league was eternally ascendant. The last time the finals beat the World Series, in 1998, the 29 million who watched the Chicago-Utah finals beat the 20.3 million for the Yankees-San Diego series. Since then, an annual average of nearly 6 million more viewers has watched the World Series than the N.B.A. finals.

06-21-2005, 10:09 AM
what about game presentation?

the NBA needs to frown upon ABC, ESPN and TNT. Those announcers are downright awful. You say baseball is boring. Well, they make up for it in the commentary. Forrtball has a ton of constant action, so the announcers really dont matter (unless it's Madden, then it's on mute)

How many of us prefer to watch a Mavs game from a local network than say TNT? Sure you want to know what the national media thinks about our team, but the commentary turns you off.

Do you think a viewer will start liking basketball because of a "superstar" ? yes, most will, but those are the bandwagoners. The NBA needs regular views that like to attend games, not just watch them on tv. The only way I see the NBA getting better is to present the product better.

You can say what you will about the NBA not having a good group of employees, but at the end of the day, if you can't present a product correctly, how do you expect to sell it?


06-21-2005, 10:24 AM
what about game presentation?

That's another factor, I think, but a smaller one. Viewership would be suffering no matter which broadcast network were handling the telecasts.

That said, I think Al Michaels is bad almost on the scale of a Brent Musberger--pompous, not that knowledgable about the game, with too many impertinent interjections.

And Bill Walton as a studio presence is less annoying only because you see and hear him less. I would not have imagined that anyone could make Barkley's analysis sound intelligent, but Walton, by comparison, consistently does.

The other ABC "personalities" (to use the term loosely) are so insignificant that I can't even think of their names.

I definitely think that the NBA, from a production value standpoint, would do better to let TNT carry the games. And I think that the decision to have more of the games shown on cable and subscription-service channels is ultimately diminishing viewership.

The Miles
06-23-2005, 04:53 AM
I love TNT, much more than hearing Ortegal and Pinto. ABC does stink though, no doubt. TNT should allow their crew to do the ABC games although we all know that it is not possible.

06-23-2005, 06:28 PM
Dunno why everyone seems to hate Pinto and Ortegal. I love those guys. I can see why someone might fine Pinto irritating, but I can't see anything wrong with Ortegal; good commentary IMO, and seemingly unbiased. I personally hate TNT, not necessarily for their commentary, but because of the way they always put up diagrams and advertisments in the middle of play. ABC is undoubtedly the worst. I specifically remember that game in Cleveland where we got our asses kicked. The announcers kept referring to Josh Howard as Juwan Howard.