With the NBA going to a full 82-game regular season, many fans, teams and even players have considered the idea of a shortened season. While the NBA would surely lose a few of its most exciting players, the league would gain a marketing boost from having its stars playing more games. Instead of being seen as a place for youngsters to learn the game, the league could be marketed as the place where stars go to play (and make millions of dollars doing it).
The NFL is very popular right now. Many of the most popular players in the NBA are trying to emulate the NFL, like LeBron James has with his recent comments about it. Why? I think that the NFL is (unfortunately) the more popular sport because of the competitive nature of the games. The NFL is known for what is best in sports, instead of what is best in business.
The NBA and the NFL have a lot in common: both leagues have a lot to stress about, and both leagues have a lot of power to effect change. The NBA and the NFL might not be as close as we would hope, but there are still a lot of areas where both leagues can learn from one another. The NBA, like the NFL, is still struggling with the issue of players protesting the national anthem. Now, as he did last year, LeBron James is speaking out, and he wants the NBA to take a cue from the NFL and make a change.
LeBron James grew up in the 1990s and became a follower of the dynasties of the time. Along with the New York Yankees, James has a soft spot for the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League. As a result, he watched HBO’s Hard Knocks this summer with bated breath, focusing on the Cowboys for the record third time in the show’s 15 seasons.
The series will maintain its current trend of five episodes from training camp and the preseason in 2021, despite one less preseason game. It’s been showing on HBO every Tuesday at 10 p.m. Eastern, with the last two episodes scheduled for August 31 and September 7. It’s a strategy James wants to see the NBA embrace.
‘Hard Knocks’ has evolved through time.
Hard Knocks premiered on HBO in 2001 with a look at the Baltimore Ravens, who had just won the Super Bowl. In 2002, the Cowboys were the featured team before the program went on hiatus for four seasons. Since 2007, it has broadcast every summer, but just once. The only time this happened occurred in 2011, when a lockout caused the start of camps to be postponed.
After having difficulty finding a team to agree to participate in the program in 2013, the NFL enacted a rule requiring teams to present. While the show’s producers are free to contact any brand, clubs are only excluded if they have the following:
- Appeared during the past decade.
- You should hire a first-year head coach.
- In either of the previous two seasons, the team made the playoffs.
The Cowboys, LeBron James’ favorite team, fulfilled all three criteria. The Cowboys haven’t made the playoffs since 2008. Mike McCarthy is in his second season in Dallas, and the club hasn’t made the playoffs since 2018.
This year, Dallas became the first team to appear in three Hard Knocks games. Both the Cincinnati Bengals and the Los Angeles Rams have appeared twice on the show. Could the idea, however, work in the NBA?
While a LeBron James-led squad is intriguing, it isn’t a sure thing.
LeBron James liked watching the Dallas Cowboys on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” and believes the NBA should do the same. Getty Images/Ronald Martinez
The NFL has an edge with the Hard Knocks idea because of the sheer number of possible tales. A total of 80 players are brought to training camp by NFL clubs. Some are late-round draft choices, while others are undrafted rookies making a comeback or returning from injury. With the massive coaching staff, there might be a hundred stories to share.
A training camp roster for an NBA club may only contain a maximum of 20 players. Coaches’ staffs have grown significantly in recent years, but they are still nothing near the size of an NFL coaching staff. The NBA’s popularity stems from its well-known players. LeBron James would be a fascinating subject for a program.
However, the NBA is not the same as the NFL. It’s unlikely that a second-round draft selection, much less an undrafted free agent, will earn a starting spot in training camp. Given that most NBA clubs already have 14 or 15 players on guaranteed contracts when they arrive at training camp, the remaining five players are mainly there to help a team get G-League rights.
In an NBA training camp, there aren’t many Cinderella tales to be told. For every Rodions Kurucs who appears out of nowhere in 2018, hundreds more are released and added to the G-League affiliate’s roster before the season begins.
Basketball does not lend itself to a consistent week-to-week approach.
The NFL has the benefit of packaging ease when it comes to a documentary-style look at training camp. Each week, there will be one game. The whole week has been leading up to that game. There is no room for ambiguity. Team A is playing Team B this week, and the guys are preparing for only that game.
An NBA training camp is unlike any other. Preseason games must be played at least four times and may be up to eight times. In the preseason, no one plays back-to-back games because it would be counterproductive (and might invoke the ire of LeBron James, who loves to comment on scheduling). Many teams, on the other hand, play two games in three nights.
Four or five days of rehearsal in one place followed by one game are difficult to bundle into a whirlwind road trip.
That doesn’t rule out the possibility of it being entertaining. If a Hard Knocks-style show about training camp and the preseason was available, diehard NBA fans would watch it.
However, it is unlikely that it would attract anything like the same level of attention as the NFL. The NFL continues to reign supreme in terms of fan interest, with everyone else simply existing in its shadow. People either love to dislike or love to adore LeBron James, so he may attract a crowd. However, unless you’re part of a great team, you’ll have a hard time getting traction.
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