Sunday, January 20, 2013

Can good basketball sell?

Wanted to post this great article on ESPN about the NBA and the lack of big time individual scorers.

The gist is that the rule changes from a few years back that allowed zone defenses and more help defense have changed the game but not the overall scoring. Teams have to pass the ball instead of letting a star get the ball on a wing and go one on one on a clear out. This emphasises shooting and ball movement over breaking down defenders off the dribble to get to the rim or free throw line.

This is a good change for people like me who like watching good basketball, but maybe not for the NBA, whose business model is based on marketing stars. Increased assists for the best players just don't draw the attention of casual fans who only look at the easiest stat to understand- scoring numbers. Fewer players that put up big scoring numbers means fewer marketable stars that are billed in the nightly matchups. There will still be some of the Lebron vs Kobe games, but there will be fewer of the secondary stars that casual fans will still come out to see.

Will this trend last? My hope is yes, but my guess is no. The rules haven't hurt any major playoff matchups yet as the Lakers, Celtics and Heat (all major markets) have all been to the finals of late which the league loves. The league is flush with marketable stars right now in Kobe, Lebron, Durant, Melo, etc. but if this trend continues who will be the stars of the future to market 7-10 years from now. Will people pay to go see the marquee NBA matchup of two players who average 18 points, 9 assists and 7 rebounds?

There may be more rule changes in the coming years.

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