This year is somewhat of a good barometer as to where the league will be once LeBron James retires. James not being in the playoffs for the first time in over 15 years has really taken a toll on league-wide ratings.
The television ratings through the first round of the NBA playoffs so far have come in down 18% from last year (per USA Today). The problem is, without LeBron ravaging the Eastern Conference, nobody really cares to watch it.
Out East, a ton of fans were always just fans of LeBron; they were never really Cavs (or Heat) fans, they were simply fans of whatever team James played for. Remove him from said team or conference, and you remove the reason for casual fans to watch.
The only people tuning in right now are die-hards. And yes, I am a die-hard hoop head, so LeBron not being there doesn’t affect me. But, ultimately if the only people tuning in are die-hard fans, what do you get? You become the National Hockey League.
Basketball had better figure out a marketing plan and find someone to build the league around once LeBron is done. If not, they will teeter closer and closer into the NHL category and become a niche sport.
Don’t hit the panic button yet. The league went through this post Jordan as well. There will be another LeBron who the world gravitates towards, but until the NBA identifies that guy, we could see more dismal ratings come in.
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