The NBA is trending. An abundance of identifiable superstars, major markets and international involvement have turned basketball into one of the most recognized sports in the world. But is it America’s? Football and baseball still hold the hearts of many Americans but is it time for a change? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate.
(left) New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) drives on Detroit Pistons forward Anthony Tolliver (43); (right) Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne (87) makes a one handed touchdown catch as Houston Texans cornerback Jacques Reeves (35) defends. (AP Photos/Paul Sancya and David J. Phillip)
Riley: You would have to wait for generations to pass on before we crown the NBA as America’s new pastime. The number of prominent MLB and NFL franchises easily trump the NBA’s. Even the NFL’s worst team annually, the Cleveland Browns, is among the most popular franchises in sports. Social media platforms and outreach projects have made several NBA players household names. But when it comes to the pageantry and passion that circles baseball and the gridiron, there’s not a comparison inside American sports.
Green: The influences that basketball has had globally answers this debate with ease. The NBA is clearly the most popular sport worldwide and even if we’re simply discussing its popularity in America, can you tell me a more recognizable name than LeBron James? How about Michael Jordan? Maybe Shaquille O’Neal? America is shifting on the fly. There continues to be less and less participation in youth football, and baseball doesn’t have the same electricity. For those who don’t think the NBA is America’s favorite sport then sit back and watch things develop.
Riley: For all of the criticism that the NFL has been slapped with over the last few seasons, it’s still standing strong. I’ve never been a big baseball fan but the strength in the sport is evident. Football, however, just extends on so many levels that it’ll forever be hard to top. Pop Warner football, high school football, college football and the NFL saturate weekends for diehard footballers. Football is life on the amateur level in states like Texas, Ohio and Florida. You just don’t find many states and cities going gaga over basketball like they do for other sports.
Green: Look at the AAU leagues blossoming around America. The same kids whose parents are flushing them away from football are being flooded into basketball. Society is starting to smarten up about the dangers and health issues of football. American football is developing a horrendous health reputation and the more the television networks try to push the product, the more football’s serious flaws continue to be unveiled. Make no mistake, I love the sport but my kids won’t be playing. Ask any football follower and they’ll tell you the sport just isn’t the same anymore. The health precautions have drowned out the sheer physicality of the game. And while such measures are needed, they have drained the league of what made it so attractive in the first place. Profit margins, star recognizability and an increasing market have turned basketball into America’s new favorite sport.