The NBA is more concerned with growing world wide and teams like the Charlotte Bobcats, while important to their individual markets, are simply inventory to spread the game globally, not necessarily to dominate a particular market.
Basically, It doesn’t matter where the team plays to the upper levels of the NBA. New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, maybe but the rest, it doesn’t matter where they are. As long as a city can put up an arena, somewhat sustain a bit of TV or local business revenue, the league will use whoever and wherever to stock its shelves with content to send out into the world.
It used to be there was a building in a town that hosted the circus, a couple car shows, maybe wrestling a couple times a year and the main tenant would be a basketball team. They sold tickets and kept the lights on to support this local building. It evolved into it’s own beast, certainly under David Stern where places that never had a major league team of any kind, suddenly had Michael Jordan visiting 4 times a year.
It’s an odd evolution, but this is the way it is in today’s NBA, especially for a small market team without any superstar. Notice I said “superstar” not “all-star” because just an all-star doesn’t get it anymore. You have to have one of the top 5 players or a top 30 player that looks or talks like one of these major new markets the NBA is trying to break into.
Now, I feel a little like a small market apologist but this is grating on me especially after tonight’s Commissioner’s press conference. Most, if not all of the questions related to the Sacramento/Seattle deal, China, India and Africa as emerging markets and where the next few All-Star games might be held. The answer to the last was New York, either Brooklyn or MSG. Big market. The rest, Seattle/Sacramento was only a concern for reporters from Seattle or Sacramento (of which there were many and close to the front). The emerging market thing really doesn’t have much of anything to do, except the people from those markets asking the questions wanted to know how they would be serviced.
Now, what does any of that have to do with the Charlotte Bobcats? Nothing. And there’s the issue. The Bobcats aren’t really struggling. They’re in a lull but games are continually sold out, at least a few a month if not once a week or so, and the TV thing is a huge mess. My perception that the league office tends to be more concerned with emerging markets and bigger up front payments (in terms of relocation fees, new, bigger/better arenas and another “emerging” market) than product on the floor or perception within middle America, is a major issue to me.
I’m boring, early 30′s white guy. I am not who the NBA is marketing to. Forget marketing, they aren’t concerned with my demographic. I’m already in of course and they don’t feel worried about it. But what about the guys that look like me at work, who if I say “Bobcats” they say “What sport?” This sort of neglect is strange to me.
I don’t know exactly what it is though. Maybe I’m burned again by Stern and his little precious Silver, in an awkwardly condescending and while sarcastically pandering to the Seattle/Sacramento crowd presser. Maybe I want everyone to love the NBA, and by sheer distance and disconnect, I personally don’t care about China, Africa or India getting behind the NBA any more than I care about them getting behind NASCAR. It’s an issue though, right?