NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard decided a while back that he wanted to finish his career in SoCal where he grew up. Rather than being a part of a super team by joining LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the Lakers, Leonard surprised many by instead choosing the LA Clippers. However, this should not have been a surprise. Kawhi is, and always has been, his own man. Therefore, being a part of a manufactured team of superstars didn’t interest him. Kawhi is a competitor and while I am a Lakers fan, I believe Kawhi’s decision helped save the NBA’s popularity with people like me. I get inspired by sports and I enjoy watching athletes compete at the highest level. In a previous blog I described how NBA championships are no longer won on the court, they are won in the front office during free agency season. I can’t think of anything more boring than that. Big market teams will always have an advantage, but the cavern between the “haves” and “have nots” has widened dramatically in the last few years, making the game less fun for fans in smaller markets. The worst examples of this were LeBron’s move to Miami and KD’s move to the Warriors. Those two free agency moves did more to undermine fan enthusiasm for the game than perhaps any other moves in history, but Kawhi Leonard’s desire to compete against the super teams rather to create one, is the type of move that will save the NBA from an eminent downward spiral in terms of popularity… Just another reason to like the guy.
The NFL markets its brand as well as any enterprise in the world. I heard a comedian once say that the NFL is so popular, it has its own day. NFL football is huge. Each NFL franchise brings in approximately $400M a year in revenue; almost double the annual revenue of NBA teams and 2 ½ times as much as MLB clubs.