Videos by OutKick
Do you remember when ESPN told us four years ago that the NBA would overtake the NFL and college football in popularity? The sports were “trending that way,” said ESPN’s Jalen Rose. If you remember these segments, you will get a kick out of this.
Not only has the NBA failed to sniff the NFL, despite Bomani Jones’ hopes, but the NBA has also fallen continuously since 2017. The truth is, the NBA is not all that popular across the country — as evidenced by this past week:
As first noted by Sports Illustrated, random college football bowl games — called the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl and the Cricket Celebration Bowl — drew better television ratings last week than 10 NBA games. So more Americans are watching Oregon State than the Los Angeles Lakers — and by a considerable amount.
The Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl, a real event, drew 2.9 million viewers on Saturday, December 18. Meanwhile, the Cricket — say in a proper tone — Celebration Bowl averaged 3.2 million.
From December 16 to December 22, the highest-rated NBA game drew 2.8 million viewers (Warriors vs. Knicks on TNT), while the lowest averaged just 355,000 (Lakers vs. Nuggets on NBATV).
You’d never know how much more popular college football is than the NBA by consuming sports talk. Shows like First Take, SportsCenter, PTI, and Around the Horn open with NBA topics as frequently as they do NFL stories. Yet, hardly ever does a college football segment make the cut.
The NBA is a niche sport. Those who care about the NBA care greatly, yet most sports fans watch pro basketball casually. However, the NBA’s niche is the media, social media, and pop culture. Thus, its over-indexed popularity.
Will Cain talked about this development with OutKick earlier in the year.
“This is behind the curtains, behind the wall of sports media,” Cain told Clay Travis. “The NBA is over-indexed because big media companies own their rights.”
“The amount of NBA coverage you get is not reflective of the demand out there,” Will goes on. “This shows in the ratings. People don’t care about the NBA like pop culture and the media want you to believe.”
That is correct. In reality, viewers care about the NBA to a degree beneath Ice Road Trucker and other random shows on the History Channel.
“The NBA is on track to surpass football,” ESPN said in 2018.
More accurately, the NBA is on pace to, maybe, surpass Fixer to Fabulous on HGTV and its 1.2 million average on Tuesday.