Adam Silver Expects NBA to Rival the NFL in U.S. Sports Popularity

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 16: NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver addresses the media prior to the game of the Brooklyn Nets against the Atlanta Hawks as part of  the 2014 Global Games on January 16, 2014 at The O2 Arena in London, England. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Never say newly instated NBA commissioner Adam Silver doesn't have goals.

Not even a week into taking over for David Stern, Silver's already overflowing with ambition, hoping that the NBA can someday rival the NFL's popularity.

Silver joined the Sacramento Kings' broadcast booth Wednesday night while on his first road trip as commissioner, and it was then when he laid out his zealous plan for professional sports domination.

Tom Ziller of SB Nation jotted down the details:

As much as we talk about international [...] I still think there's an enormous opportunity in the United States. [...] I think this game should be a rival to football. In the United States, it's the No. 1 participatory sport. We've all played it. I want to focus on the game. The business is going well, but this is a beautiful game.

This is a slight contrast from Stern's focus. For three decades, he (successfully) attempted to grow the NBA's international brand. Silver's goals are more domestic, not to mention equally, if not more, difficult.

In the annual Harris Interactive poll (via ESPN's Darren Rovell), 35 percent of those surveyed indicated that professional football was their favorite sport, followed by baseball (14 percent) and college football (11 percent). The NBA checked in with 6 percent of those surveyed saying professional basketball was their favorite sport, behind auto racing (7 percent).

That's a difficult deficit to make up. Per Rovell, this is the 30th consecutive year in which professional football has been named America's most popular sport. Meanwhile, the NBA is actually down from last year's poll, when 7 percent of Harris Interactive's sample size chose men's professional basketball over everything else.

But as Rovell points out, professional sports preferences vary by demographic:

A sport's popularity varies greatly based on demographics. More people who live in rural areas on the East coast say they're fans of the NFL than the general U.S. population. Those with an annual household income of more than $100,000 are more likely to be baseball fans, while African Americans are less likely to enjoy the sport, the poll reveals. More southerners call college football their favorite sport, while those with a high school education or less tend to gravitate to auto racing.

To the NBA's credit, it has held steady over the last few years. It checked in with an approval rating of 5 percent in 2012, and hasn't dipped below that figure since.

The NBA's popularity seemed to be at its highest during the late 1990s. As recent as 1998, 13 percent of those questioned cited pro basketball as their sport of choice. That's more than double what the league has now, 16 years later.

Before even dreaming about rivaling the NFL's popularity, Silver has to help the NBA return to its previous level of stateside prominence. That, in of itself, is going to be a difficult endeavor to successfully spearhead.

Hoopsheads better hope he's up for the task.