The next issue of ESPN features Kobe Bryant on the cover. That doesn’t spark too much interest, does it? How about Kobe Bryant—decked in a Barcelona strip—trying to do a rainbow with the new 90 Nike football?
The Lakers guard, arguably the sickest baller on the planet, is a huge Barcelona fan. Bryant grew up in Italy and apparently has a soft spot for soccer. Bryant keeps up with the team, and tries to catch as many games on television as possible.
Bryant isn’t the only NBA player to endorse football. Boston’s Kevin Garnett was in attendance at David Beckham’s debut for the Galaxy. Chicago’s Luol Deng sports Arsenal jerseys and supports his hometown Gunners. Phoenix's superstar Steve Nash is also a big football fan—he used his heading skills to aid Amar’e Stoudemire in his slam dunk competition.
Soccer is growing vastly in the States. At the club and high school level, the sport is gaining interest. With the national team’s success in recent World Cups, the game is gaining more attention. Major League Soccer has also hit if off with more airtime on ESPN, and also with the presence of celebrity icon David Beckham.
I don’t think soccer will surpass American football, basketball, or baseball in terms of popularity. However, I think despite Jim Rome’s hatred for the sport, soccer will be just as popular one day.