First, let me get this out of the way: the NFL is much more popular than the NBA, and it isn’t close. Football is the most popular sport in America, and the NFL is the only provider most people care about. This year over 100 million people watched the Super Bowl. Even after several years of struggling very publicly with issues such as player health, domestic violence and “controversial” protests done by prominent players, the NFL is the king of American sports. However, it probably shouldn’t be that way. The NFL has proven, over and over again, that it is woefully incompetent in how it handles important issues, whether they be strictly football-related or not. Meanwhile, there is a league in America that has managed to toe the fine line of allowing its players to express political opinions without those opinions coloring how fans view the league and put out a fairly consistent product in the process— the NBA. The NBA, as a professional sports league, is superior to the NFL in how it treats its players, its international reach, its star power, in how it handles social issues and in the product it puts out.
One of the primary reasons the NBA is a better league than the NFL is that it treats its players better. One simple fact I could use to demonstrate this is that the NBA, on average, pays its players a lot more money than the NFL does. However, because the NBA doesn’t have nearly as many players as the NFL, there is at least a reason for that. But one of the main problems the NFL has that the NBA doesn’t is that football is a much more dangerous sport. NFL players (with the exception of maybe kickers) are risking their brains and lives every time they play a snap, and yet they get compensated far less than players in less lucrative leagues, such as the NBA or MLB. Median salaries, which are probably a more accurate representation of what most players in these leagues actually make, still back up this point. And the worst part is NFL contracts aren’t fully guaranteed like contracts in other sports. Now, you may find it difficult to feel sorry for athletes who are making at least $465,000, but this is still undeniably unfair, especially in a league where the average career span is 3.5 years. Furthermore, the NFL has done other things to continue to mistreat its players, such as attempting to cover up the impact playing football can have on a person’s brain. The NBA doesn’t have this problem because, well, basketball doesn’t force players to throw themselves into high speed collisions every play. Shockingly, basketball isn’t as hard on the body or brain as football can be.
The final element that embodies how the NBA treats its players better than the NFL is that it lets its players be advocates for social issues in a way the NFL doesn’t. While the NFL continues to attempt to silence the voices of players like Colin Kaepernick (who, by the way, does not hate the troops), the NBA actively encourages players to take a stance on social issues. The NBA is not without its issues on player treatment, but at least it allows its players to speak their minds without fear of retribution.
While what I’ve articulated in the last paragraph isn’t all that controversial, that is only part of my spicy hot take. The NBA actually puts out a better product than the NFL on a week-to-week basis. There is a growing consensus that the football being put out by the NFL is of lower quality than it used to be, whether it be because the league is younger than it used to be, or because teams can no longer practice as long or as hard as they used to, or because superstar players like Aaron Rodgers or Odell Beckham Jr. often suffer injuries due to the physical nature of the sport. While the NBA also struggles at times with injuries, the product remains strong. The Golden State Warriors have lit up the league with a fast-paced, exciting brand of basketball that is quickly spreading across both the college and pro levels, and now they play the role of the villain everyone wants to bring down. Furthermore, it seems like every team has a star. Almost any night, you can watch Steph Curry, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kyrie Irving or any number of astounding athletes throw down dunks and spray deep three-pointers. I am personally being thoroughly entertained by Cavaliers vs. Timberwolves at the moment, and that’s just a regular season game. I can’t remember a single sporting event I’ve enjoyed watching more than the 2016 Western Conference Finals or NBA Finals. But don’t take my word for it. If you consider yourself a sports fan, and you’ve checked out of the NBA, consider giving it another try. The NBA is the future of sports in America, and the NFL is quickly becoming the past.