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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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Below the Hardwood

The Raptors’ Fantasy Draft

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Below The Hardwood
The Raptors' Fantasy Draft
Below The Hardwood The Raptors' Fantasy Draft

In episode 3, the crew change up the flow while they await the return of the 2019-2020 season and do the first ever BTH Franchise Fantasy Draft! Alan, Dexter and Ryan draft Toronto Raptors players and coaches, choosing from players past and present like Vince Carter, all the way back to Damon Stoudamire.

Think you know who chose the best team? Let us know on social media!

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@alanshane on Instagram & @thealanshane on Twitter
@livingmydexlife on Instagram

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Below the Hardwood

Kyrie The Crusader

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Below The Hardwood
Kyrie The Crusader
Below The Hardwood Kyrie The Crusader

In episode 2, the team gives their thoughts on the crusade led by Kyrie Irving to keep the 19-20 NBA season cancelled amidst the social injustice and Covid-19.  As the league prepares for the return of the season, the crew ponders whether Kyrie and others have a good argument on why continuing the season could be a distraction to bigger issues and if the league does return which teams, players are you looking forward to watching in the new 8 game format.

Don’t forget to follow the team on Instagram and most social media platforms

  • @belowthehardwood
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Podcast available on Spotify, Apple, Google, and iHeartRadio.

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Below the Hardwood

The COVID Special

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The Break
USA vs Everybody | Episode 17
The Break USA vs Everybody | Episode 17

For the first time in over 4 years BTH is back to talk the best in the NBA as they always do….

Social distancing style!

In this episode the team, the homies and  the compadres give their takes on “The Last Dance” MJ Doc; who’s really behind it?, the 2020 NBA season; will it return and which players need it bad, who is the season MVP, would be playoff match ups for east and west conference finals and who would have ultimately won the NBA Finals had it not been for the pandemic of Covid-19.

Don’t forget to follow the team on Instagram and most social media platforms

  • @belowthehardwood
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Podcast available on Spotify, Apple, Google, and iHeartRadio.

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