I was reading today that NBA television ratings are up by an astronomical 27% on the ESPN broadcasts. I hope this isn't all Lonzo Ball hype (the Lakers are ALWAYS on) but in any event it is a remarkable contrast to the falling NFL ratings. I believe the NBA marketing strategy over the last decade or more has been quite brilliant. In addition to the athleticism of the players and some of the floor opening rule changes the focus has been on developing and publicizing the personalities of the players.

Basketball has some natural advantages over other sports. Fans sit very close to the players during games (at least rich fans) and players don't wear helmets or masks. Facial expressions are completely evident and one can get a feel for the character of the players. NBA players use social media a lot (and this must be encouraged by the league at some level) and engage in a lot of trash talk. This is very likely part of African-American heritage (the "dozens") and while almost always harmless and amusing again gives the fans more insight about the personalities involved.

The NBA broadcasters, particularly the TNT crew add tremendously to the show. The original Kenny, Charles and Ernie group has now been copied by every other network and every other sport but never done as well. Adding a personality like Shaq has made it even better. I can't think of another sport where a retired superstar has that kind of appeal. Most of them are bland (though A Rod was surprisingly good on baseball this year). There are repeated references to the "NBA Family" and there seems to be something to this. The hugs and greeting on the court after the games seem excessive to some of the old school players but I think most of us enjoy seeing the relationships; like when Biyombo or Cory Joseph returned to Toronto.

I live in Edmonton and the Connor McDavid vs Austin Matthews debate is a topic of debate. But really.....neither one of them has any sort of defined personality at all. Nice guys.....super talents.....boring interviews. Most pro athletes today say very little of interest when interviewed. Unfortunately many of the NBA players are the same but it seems there are more exceptions. A lot of the stars are politically aware and have taken strong stands......before it happened in the NFL.

With the Raptors we know all about the Kyle-Demar bromance and I (maybe just me) fret about how less minutes and a possibly fading career will affect JV who seems a really nice fellow. The amazing chemistry of the bench guys is palpable; mainly because we can see that they are having fun and like each other.

I'm biased as I love basketball and think it a superior sport in many ways (a lot less concussions) but I really do think that the popularity of the NBA is going to take off. This might make it even less affordable to get a decent seat at an NBA arena but is still good to see.