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The NBA Is The Ms. Congeniality Of Sports

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The National Basketball Association has been really great lately. I mean, it’s only been a couple of weeks and already we’ve had Dwyane Wade die and come back to life as a perimeter shooting threat, Tristan Thompson willingly accept the Kardashian curse til death does him part, and gotten to see Kevin Durant beef all of OKC. Someone in basketball heaven is smiling down on us.

Regardless of storylines, the NBA has been busy quietly becoming the most likeable league in major North American sports. That’s right. Stifle your World Series warm fuzzies. The Cubs breaking a 108 year-old losing streak is great and everything, but the majority of the MLB’s audience is male and qualifies for senior discounts. That’s not unfixable, but you can’t be the most likeable if only one demographic of people likes you. The Major League has already started its rebrand, but their results won’t come to light for years.

On to football! If the MLB is the lovable, slightly senile grandpa of the big four, the NFL is your racist cousin who you had to unfriend on Facebook after a Trump status update. The NFL’s handling of domestic violence, Colin Kaepernick, and pretty much anything to do with women puts them squarely in last place. And that’s before we even take into consideration some of the rules and penalties being enforced by Goodell. A lull in viewers in all demographics just further reinforces this.

And finally we have hockey. In a couple words, the NHL fan base is white, affluent and …female? Yup. The NHL is the Ivy league grad of the family. The average NHL viewer makes the most money out of any fan base, and the league boasts the second youngest viewership, and has one of the highest numbers of female fans. Smells like growth, marketing potential, and Sperry Top-siders. The only downside to the NHL is that its demographics lack diversity. Ninety percent of viewers are caucasian, making the NHL the least diverse North American sport after Motor Racing.

Finally, to basketball. The NBA has one of the most diverse fan bases and is the only major sport with more minority viewers than caucasian viewers. And its average fan is thirty five years old. This is a big deal. A young audience guarantees longevity. There’s a reason so many companies target millennials. As of right now, those aged 18-35 are the most influential buyers; they act like a gateway, and diffuse trends into the rest of the population.

These days the NBA is succeeding. By having the most millennials, they ensure buy-in from huge corporations who want to advertise their merchandise. Think Nike’s lifetime deal with Lebron or Russell Westbrook; The Association has cracked the code on what the kids want.

So, yeah. The NBA wins the In-With The Kids award, but how does it ensure likability with gender? The amount of female fans falls way behind the NHL and even the NFL. Yet unlike football, they have been actively taking steps to combat its issues, because of the NBA’s strong sense of corporate social responsibility.

The biggest step by the NBA has been its partnership with the WNBA. Last year, the sibling organizations released a “Lean In” promo, encouraging men to promote gender equality in their workplaces. The video featured commissioner Adam Silver and several stars from both leagues. It wasn’t just a skin deep campaign as we watched NBA players use social media to comment on and promote the WNBA Finals.

The last factor in the likability box is how to address social issues. The NBA is always trying to improve and is quick to address issues that bother their fan base. Case in point? The North Carolina bathroom bill. When it became clear that the controversial and homophobic bill was going to be passed, the NBA pulled its All-Star weekend out of there almost immediately, stating it wouldn’t hold the event where all its fans didn’t feel welcome. Meanwhile, NFL owners refused to move their meeting from Charlotte, despite the backlash.

The NBA’s ethnic diversity unfortunately does not insulate it from the racism that seeps into so many other sports. We saw this when TMZ released tapes of former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling chastising his girlfriend for taking pictures with Magic Johnson. He went on to say that he didn’t want her associating with people of colour or bringing them to games.

The NBA took action with no precedent, NBA commissioner Adam Silver handed Sterling the heaviest penalty he could: a lifetime ban from the NBA and a twenty five million dollar fine. In giving kudos to Silver, it’s important to note that it’s not just the higher-ups taking a stand. The NBA builds that culture of accountability through player involvement.

Players have continually spoken out on the Black Lives Matter movement. Players and coaches alike have voiced their support for Colin Kaepernick in a time when some of his own teammates wouldn’t. The NBA has allowed its players to practice their beliefs, which has culminated in a much larger impact on their communities. Think of Lebron, Melo, CP3, and Dwyane Wade’s ESPY speech.

The NBA’s commitment to making their communities a better place is now more important than ever. In a time of mounting ignorance and hatred, we need our athletes to be more than their sports. We need them to be leaders both on and off the court. At the end of the day, consumers want brands that represent them. The NBA represents the future. It’s about practicing the kind of tolerance and unity and love that you can only find on a basketball court. That’s not to say that you can’t find those values in any other sport, but rarely are they embodied off hardwood.

Basketball, you see, is for everybody. It’s a mindset.

You can’t get more likeable than that.

Maddy is a Canadian sports media student who does not like the Raptors. Growing up in a hockey family, she decided to be rebellious and play basketball. She lives in Toronto and considers herself the defensive specialist of her pick-up league. When not writing, she does colour commentary for the Ryerson University women's team.

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Featured Article

Ride The Wave

Back in October the sky was the limit. LeBron had decided to move to LA and join the Lakers. Things were good then.

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Back in October the sky was the limit. LeBron had decided to move to LA and join the Lakers, drawing in a decent support team and a lot of talk that the West was looking incredibly dominant next to a “weaker” East. Things were good then.

Five months later and things couldn’t be farther from that idylistic picture. The East thrived without the King and GMs put together some of the most noteworthy teams in a while. And the Lakers? The Lakers currently sit in the 11th spot of the Western Conference with very little hope of making it to the playoffs. They’re a team that is constantly attacked for their lack of chemistry, skill, and effort. For the first time in a long time, LA became synonymous with “hopeless”.

This wasn’t the future we saw for the King.

On the heels of a night filled with one of his greatest achievements ever, the Lakers as a team walked away with a loss to the Denver Nuggets. A night that began on a high note went out on one that was equivalent to sour candy. Furthermore, a frustrated team left an arena, hopped on social media, and found a bevy of congrats for their star player, while enduring the storm that came with another Lakers loss.

It seems that James’ stardom has reached a tipping point, one that makes him a GM one moment, the King of the league the next, and finally the biggest point of contention within the locker room. The most notable thing is that it is clearly wearing him down. Chris Martin let us know that “nobody one said it was easy”, but you’ve got to ask yourself, does it have to be so hard?

The answer is unfortunately, yes. It’s always going to be this way, and there is no fighting the current, but there is beauty in riding the wave. Embracing that moment when the wave comes crashing down on you is important, because it’s always going to happen, but your attitude will always be remembered. LeBron rides high, and keeps things in the positive light for the media, but he’s got to realize that they are writing his story, and he doesn’t have to play into their’s. Ride the wave, and take the loss in stride with all the great that has come with it, but take the loss because your part of a team that is.

The wave has crashed down, but the current will bring another.

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Year 15 | A Mini Documentary

Year 15 of a legacy…

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What’s to come for the man on top, and what got him here?

It’s Year 15 of a man’s career, but it’s also Year 15 of a legacy…

Created by Tristan Laughton | Twitter: @Ctrice

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Editorial

Something Out of Nothing

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It’s March 2016, and I’m driving with Alan Shane Lewis to Montreal to meet with Marc Griffin and Phil Boileau. We’re meeting to speak about this exciting new idea I pitched to them. We were tired of spinning the wheels on our own individual internet shows, and I told them that it was time we stopped waiting for a network and became the network.

We spoke that weekend about creating a community of content creators that all loved ball and came together to make unique content with unique voices – voices we felt were never heard in the mainstream. This community was the base of Press and we’d continue to push forward from that spot. We spoke about some amazing show ideas, article ideas, social media plan. It was truly an exciting time, and still one of the best weekends of my life.

Two years later and that group is a lot smaller, and that idea is Press Basketball.

It caught fire at the beginning and we had people joining our bright shiny new plaything left, right, and center. It was exciting, but now I kind of realize that a lot of it was just that we were that “bright shiny new thing”.

We ended up with a lot of Press Basketball “members” but when I stepped back and looked at what was happening… it wasn’t what I’d imagined. The fire burned out. The idea was gone. We had just become another thing trying to stay alive, waiting for some deus ex machina to show up with money and make everything okay.

I’ve gone through most of my life making something out of nothing. It’s never easy, but when it happens it’s always worth it… ALWAYS. Press made me feel alive at a point. It was literally all I could think about, and while it still is on my mind, it doesn’t make me feel alive. This hurts more than I can ever explain.

Changes are coming my friends. We’re not laying down and dying, and if we do it’s not going to be like this.

The core of Press will be setting fire to a lot over the next few weeks and I personally can’t wait for this to start. From the ashes something new will rise (I watched a lot of XMEN growing up).

Stay tuned, because it’s not over.

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