Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has seen the future, and he thinks that it belongs to the National Basketball Association.
The retired big man great recently wrote a piece for The Guardian entitled “The NBA, and not the NFL, is the league of America’s future.” In it, Abdul-Jabbar says that, while football is still by far the nation’s most popular sport, the bubble may be about to burst in favor of basketball.
America has changed and with that change we are seeing a shifting away from hoisting football on our collective shoulders. Although football remains our most popular professional sport, that popularity has been declining over the past five years, from 67% saying they were fans in 2012, to 57% in 2017. Professional baseball has also fallen 2% during that time. However, professional basketball has risen 3%. Before anyone starts blaming Colin Kaepernick, let’s remember that he first took a knee in 2016 and that the fan base erosion had already been strong several years before that.
The Hall of Famer cites an awakening to the dangers of football, a decrease in its popularity among American youth, and the idea that the sport no longer seems to represent the spirit of the country as reasons why football may soon be knocked off its perch. Conversely, Abdul-Jabbar argues that the NBA’s better tolerance of its players’ freedom of speech and its ability to connect with the younger generation will help it seize the torch of America’s sport.
Of course, Abdul-Jabbar may have a predisposition towards the NBA as a former player. But he raises several good points in his piece, and he definitely isn’t the only prominent basketball figure who feels that way about the respective futures of the two sports.