Everyone likes a good rivalry. Coke vs. Pepsi. Chevy vs. Ford. Ali vs. Frazier. It creates excitement within a particular category whether it’s soft drinks, cars or professional boxing. Media especially love rivalries. News is generated but more importantly so is advertising.
It seems until recently that the NBA has been more about individuals and less about “team” rivalries as was in years past. But all that may change. Shaquille O’Neal moving to the Cleveland Cavaliers to play alongside LeBron James has created a super-marquee team and may lead to a “super showdown” with the Lakers in 2010. Add in other teams like the Celtics, Magic and Mavericks and there might be a recipe for rivalry.
While headliners and great athletes help sell tickets, it really boils down to team success. Last year the Seattle Supersonics relocated to Oklahoma City and was the third NBA franchise to relocate in the past decade. Last year’s ratings for the NBA Finals were the fourth-lowest average since 1981 — and the lowest average for an NBA Finals involving the Lakers since 1980.
The NBA should leverage some of these restructurings and work to promote better franchise rivalries. Team histories can be leveraged to further help tell unique stories and add “flavor” to each NBA game matchup. If not, more teams may relocate and ratings will continue to dwindle.