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Volume 25 No. 152
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NBA Thriving With Relevance Among Young Fans, In Pop Culture

A passionate following from younger fans has helped boost the league over the past decade
Photo: NBAE/GETTY IMAGES

America’s "true sporting pastime" begins tonight with the tipoff of the new NBA season, as basketball "does the best job of all major sports in tapping into the country’s cultural psyche and in keeping pace with the way it is moving," according to Martin Rogers of USA TODAY. When it comes to "engagement and interaction, the bewildering domain of online life is dominated by the NBA, with the athletes among the most prolific and creative content providers." The NBA has "embraced everything that America’s youth likes and plays just as big a role in telling it what it should like next." Warriors G Stephen Curry’s latest sneakers "will generate a larger online impression than even Tom Brady’s latest spectacular performance." Football "isn’t going away, but if you think it is the only sport worthy of pastime status, you’re almost certainly not of the Snapchat generation" (USA TODAY, 10/16). COMPLEX.com's Angel Diaz wrote the NBA "benefits from an embarrassment of riches in terms of star power, and the league obviously does a way better job of letting their faces be seen and their off-court personas celebrated" compared to the NFL. NBA stars' outfits and sneakers are "put under a microscope before games, everybody shares Steph Curry's pregame rituals, fans respect LeBron James' music choices when he debuts something on his social platforms, and petty social media spats between superstars are treated like reality TV." The NBA "comes across as more human, more real," while the NFL "still has this archaic, conservative military-like way of doing things" (COMPLEX.com, 10/15).

CAN'T STOP, WON'T STOP: In L.A., Dan Woike writes the NBA over the offseason has "loved the year-round attention -- it actively leaned into it, going so far as to televise every summer league game even as the level of play fluctuated between entertaining and bad pick-up." Because of this, the league can "afford to leave its biggest star home on opening night," with LeBron James and the Lakers not opening until Thursday. Tonight's Celtics-76ers game is part of a "rivalry that should define the Eastern Conference for the next five seasons." It "isn’t an opener" but is a "main event." The NBA "can afford" to have James as a "fan on opening night" (L.A. TIMES, 10/16). In DC, Tim Bontemps notes tonight will mark the "first time in more than a decade" that James "won’t be playing on opening night" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/16).

NOT SLOWING DOWN: In Chicago, Mike McGraw writes for "all the imbalance and lack of competitiveness" at the top of the league, the NBA "remains as popular as ever." The Warriors in winning three of the last four championships "haven't done anything to diminish interest in the league." ESPN's Jeff Van Gundy said, "It's amazing to me how viewership of TV and all of that has been so great when the Lakers have been bad for a while, the Knicks have struggled, the Nets have really struggled, and Chicago over the last couple years has been in a downturn. ... It's fascinating how the NBA popularity is still growing" (Chicago DAILY HERALD, 10/16).