The month of July is suppose to be all about baseball. Major League events like the Home Run Derby and All-Star game provided entertainment for sports fans. But not as much as the NBA summer league, which took over the MLB regular season based off ratings and rookies performing at a high level.
“Our ESPN and ESPN 2 [summer league] ratings are up 50 percent over last year’s” says Ashley O’Connor, the sports network’s senior manager for NBA programming and acquisitions, according to NPR.
But wait how does a sport, which was technically finished in June with the Golden State Warriors becoming champions over the Cleveland Cavaliers, become so popular this quick? Hype and the observation of rookies possibly becoming potential all-stars.
Philadelphia 76ers’ Markell Fultz gave everyone explosive plays and a scoring mentally on every single possession, until he suffered a high ankle sprain that end his summer league play. Los Angeles Lakers’ Lonzo Ball delivering dazzling passes that most point guards can’t make as rookies, literally getting triple doubles so easily compared to college.
Ball didn’t play in the finals against the Portland Trail Blazers, but saw his team win their first ever Vegas summer league title. And that wasn’t the only marquee name that made headlines for 10 days. Jayson Tatum from the Boston Celtics scored at will against any team and looked like Kobe 2.0. Heck even Dallas Mavericks’ Dennis Smith Jr. show comparisons of Steve Francis with poster dunks and bursting speed. These four and the other rookies show everyone the talent of the next future all-stars. Basketball has become an addictive sport to watch because of Golden State and Cleveland.
The two powerhouse teams already met for a third time in the Finals and got incredible TV ratings. Now people want to see if these rookies can contribute and make an instant impact on the team that is contending for a title, like Boston. Eventually the Celtics will be in the conversation of possibility being a threat to Golden State or Cleveland, but that hasn’t happen yet.
If the summer league continues to outshine baseball and even NFL offseason stories, maybe NBA commissioner Adam Silver needs to figure out a way on extending it for at least a month. More money and sponsors would be thrilled to have the NBA almost becoming a year-long sport, even if it takes away ratings from the MLB season.