The NBA's forgotten demographic

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The NBA makes all kinds of concerted efforts to account for and appeal to their target demographics. There are ticket packages designed for families with young children, dance teams that draw in the ogling masses, and sponsorships that often speak to very particular audiences. The league is even willing to fiddle with its uniforms for a few nights as a celebration of Hispanic and Spanish-speaking fans all across the globe.

There are efforts to reach out, to celebrate, to embrace, to give back, to draw in, and to flat-out earn. But there’s a startlingly large population of fans that seems to exist between the NBA’s target audiences: female fans. So much of the professional sporting experience is tailor-made for the heterosexual male, because after all, sports are manly, and sporting events are where manly men like to go.

Only the NBA audience consists of a dwindling percentage of manly men, and a growing percentage of basketball-driven women. It’s not threatening, and it’s not an invasion. Hell, it’s not even all that new. Female fans have been enjoying the NBA game for years, and the only real flaw in the NBA’s massive and comprehensive master plan to lure in and entertain their audience is that they’ve failed to cater to a good chunk of their fan base.

Sarah Tolcser framed the female fan experience — or at the very least, her female fan experience — splendidly in a guest post for Hardwood Paroxysm (which, if I may disclaim, is a site I’m a contributor for). It’s not filled with bile or rage, but a legitimate query into why no one has bothered to account for 40% of the NBA’s fans:

The NBA has been way ahead of the other major sports leagues in
pioneering some things, such as social media. It’s time they show they
can get with the program when it comes to their female fans. As a
Hornets season ticketholder, I’ve taken surveys as a member of many
different demographic classes- including ticketholder, event attender,
arena food and drink buyer, merchandise purchaser, web content
consumer, and New Orleans resident. You know what I realize they’ve
never once asked me? What more they could be doing for me as a female
fan.

And you know, NBA, I would really like to be asked that question.
Because I have some things to say that might surprise you, things like,
“The answer is not more pink jerseys.” Things like, as a member of a
growing class of unmarried women ages 25-44,”family friendly”
promotions and cute distractions on court during the game entice me no
more than they entice male fans. Things like, some of the advertising
spots from your own sponsors have sexist overtones that make me
uncomfortable. Things like, when I go to your official website and see
scantily-clad girls on the front page, I can’t help feeling that the
NBA is not meant to be “for me.”

I don’t see this evolving into a movement or a protest, but if it were to do so, there could probably be no better slogan than “The answer is not more pink jerseys.” We’re to the point where adding sequins to things really isn’t getting the job done, and all of the tiny little flashy discs in the world shouldn’t deflect our attention from the fact that a real, relevant, and influential group of NBA fans are being completely ignored.

  

Russell Westbrook says he will not kneel for national anthem “as of right now”

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook spins the ball as he poses for photos during the 2016-2017 Oklahoma City Thunder Media Day in Oklahoma City, Friday, Sept. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
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Without question, some kneeling/raised fist protests of the National Anthem are coming to the NBA once preseason games start in a couple of weeks. Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers has already come out saying “there’s no more American thing to do than to protest.” Teams are discussing the need for social change.

While the NBA has a rule that players must stand for the anthem, the NBA and players’ union are already discussing exactly how and if that rule should be enforced.

While some players will kneel, Russell Westbrook will not be among them. Probably. Here’s is what he told Fred Katz of the Norman Transcript.

Obviously, Westbrook is leaving himself some wiggle room here. Also, if there is one NBA star you can expect to be blunt about the situation when talking to the media, it’s Westbrook (when he feels like opening up to the media, anyway).

I expect few if any of the NBA’s top stars — the guys with the biggest international brands — will join the protests. However, there certainly will be players taking part. For a league that sees itself as progressive — and has a more politically progressive fan base compared to other American sports — how the league handles this will be watched.

Timberwolves coach and president Tom Thibodeau thanks Kevin Garnett after retirement announcement

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 28: Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics sits not he bench prior to Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the New York Knicks on April 28, 2013 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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Tributes have poured in all over the NBA world since Kevin Garnett announced his retirement on Friday afternoon — from other players, commissioner Adam Silver and media members who covered him. Garnett and Tom Thibodeau have a lengthy history together: Thibodeau coached Garnett in Boston as an assistant under Doc Rivers, and they won a championship in 2008. This spring, Thibodeau took over as head coach and president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team that drafted Garnett, saw his best years and saw him end his career. Thibodeau released a heartfelt statement on Saturday congratulating Garnett:

“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate and thank Kevin for all of his great accomplishments and contributions to the NBA, the Minnesota Timberwolves organization, and for me personally with the Boston Celtics. Kevin combined great talent with a relentless drive and intelligence. I will always cherish the memories of the way in which he led the Celtics to the 2008 NBA Championship. His willingness to sacrifice and his unselfishness led us to that title. Kevin will always be remembered for the way in which he played the game. His fierce competitiveness, his unequalled passion for the game, and the many ways in which he cared about this team was truly special. KG is without question the all-time best player to wear a Minnesota Timberwolves jersey, and he is also one of the best to ever play this game.”

It’s a shame that Thibodeau didn’t get to coach Garnett again in Minnesota, but the team is in good hands with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.

Pacers unveil 50th anniversary patch for their uniforms (PHOTO)

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 28:  Leandro Barbosa #28 of the Indiana Pacers looks on against the New Jersey Nets at Prudential Center on March 28, 2012 in Newark, New Jersey. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Chris Chambers/Getty Images)
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The Indiana Pacers have been a franchise for 50 years — 10 in the ABA and 40 in the NBA. To celebrate this anniversary, they’ve unveiled a new patch that they will wear on their uniforms this season. You can check it out below:

It looks pretty sleek, combining the Pacers’ logo with the zero in “50.” It’s subtle and well-designed.

Kobe Bryant pays tribute to Kevin Garnett on Twitter

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 12:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers puts a shot up over Kevin Garnett #5 and Paul Pierce #34 of the Boston Celtics in Game Four of the 2008 NBA Finals on June 12, 2008 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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This summer, three of this generation’s defining NBA players, and three of the greatest players of all time, called it a career: Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett. The latter two in particular had a lot in common, as psychotic competitors and polarizing personalities. They had many memorable battles over the years, including the Lakers-Celtics Finals in 2008 and 2010 (they each won one) and the playoffs in 2003 and 2004, when Garnett was in Minnesota. On Saturday afternoon, a day after Garnett officially announced his retirement, Kobe paid tribute to him with a tweet.

The next time they’ll be together is 2021, when they go into the Hall of Fame together.