BOSTON (CBS) — In terms of ratings and profits, the NFL is still king in America. However, declining ratings and some dysfunction among the league’s billionaire owners have the NFL looking less like the unstoppable force it was just five or so years ago.
The NBA, on the other hand, appears to be on the rise. Though the league’s numbers still pale in comparison to the NFL, the NBA’s ratings and profits are moving in the right direction. A report this week noted that ratings for nationally televised games are up nearly 30 percent this year, and with an influx of young stars entering the league every year, the overall NBA product is rather healthy.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, whose “pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered” comment about the NFL several years ago has proven to have been prescient, spoke with reporters about the overall health of the NBA prior to Wednesday night’s game against the Celtics in Boston.
Cuban noted that awareness and developments in concussion studies play a role in drawing more children to basketball, and that the NBA does a better job of marketing the game toward youth.
“Our demographic keeps on getting younger. The NFL and baseball, they keep on getting older,” Cuban said, according to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald. “And I think what we’re doing with ‘NBA 2K’ is brilliant. And in the bigger scheme of things in terms of building fans for the future, what do you want your kids to play? … Do you want [your child] to get healthy from running the court, or do you want to watch him play football and worry about collisions?”
Cuban also noted that despite the NFL being the country’s biggest sport, the league does a poor job of marketing its stars. Much of that has to do with the fact that players wear helmets and facemasks, meaning the majority of players are unrecognizable to the average fan.
“Kids play [NBA] 2K, watch a game, watch TV — you know every player,” Cuban said, according to Bulpett. “That’s a huge advantage because our players have brands. Our players have platforms. Our players have voices. LeBron [James] tweets, and more people see it than our politicians.”
As of Thursday, LeBron James had 39.9 million Twitter follows, just about 4 million fewer followers than President Donald Trump.
Cuban was also critical of the way the NFL handles controversy, especially compared to the way NBA players and commissioner Adam Silver handle issues that arise. Ultimately, Cuban indicated, the NBA understands how and why it is successful.
“I don’t think people realize that talent drives this game. Personalities drive this game,” Cuban said. “We are the only league where talent comes first, and that’s a critical distinction.”
Cuban’s initial comment about pigs and hogs was made in March 2014. Since then, the NFL has been stepping back ever so slightly. And if any league is in position to make up ground on the NFL, it figures to be the NBA.