Here's my Top 5 reasons I feel the NBA is in trouble. I did not number them because to me all these reasons are inter-related.
- The costs of attending an NBA game have gotten out of reach for the average family. This has bred some resentment that I think goes under the radar. With the kids never having the magic of attending their first NBA games the next generation of NBA fans has been eroding away for some time now. The experience of a kid just seeing the NBA through the prism of TV or a video game isn't the same. Too easy to change the channel or play a more interesting game instead.
- The domestic political stances taken by the league have driven away many fans. The attitude of "If you don't agree with our stances and vote Democrat then you are a racist" is basically the message many fans have taken away from the NBA's actions. And Adam Silver saying there will be no on court messaging next season is a tacit admission that this has hurt the NBA's bottom line. It may be too little to late for many fans though.
- Player movement has hurt many fans emotional attachment to players. Think of this as "the LeBron Effect." His "decision" to leave Cleveland for Miami caused great psychic harm to the fans in Cleveland that never truly healed and ushered in many NBA stars following suit. As great as Kevin Durant is as a player he will never get his historical due because no fan base ever became emotionally attached to his vagabond ways the way past generations fell in love with a Michael Jordan or a Larry Bird. And if the shutdown related revenue drops cause a work stoppage - look for fans to run away from the NBA in droves because for most that emotional attachment to the players has been severed or never developed in the first place.
- China: They choose blood money over the freedom of the people of Hong Kong and gave up the moral high ground basically for generations. Given the damage the Wuhan virus has caused to this country many will neither forget nor forgive the NBA for this huge moral shortcoming. No other professional sports league is saddled with this problem. The damage will be unique to the NBA.
- Commercials: This isn't just an issue for the NBA but it is exacerbated by the nature of their game. For as long as I've watched the NBA people have opined that you only need to watch the last few minutes (tough to argue against this idea). People in general have become more reluctant to sit through the commercials that permeate live TV sports which is one of the reasons sports TV ratings are down across the board. But given the nature of NBA play many people wonder why subject yourself to two hours of commercial ridden TV when you can just catch the highlights on YouTube? Some NBA owners highlight the uptick of NBA clips on digital platforms as a positive but it's really more of a symptom of a deep problem for the league.