Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Says NBA Will Replace NFL as 'League of America's Future'

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistDecember 12, 2017

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of
Jordan Strauss/Associated Press

In an article for the Guardian on Tuesday, Basketball Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said he believes the NBA will eventually eclipse the NFL as the most popular sports league in the United States.

Abdul-Jabbar noted the NFL is still king currently, but he added, "All signs point to the NBA replacing the NFL as the league of America's future."

Abdul-Jabbar cited a Gallup poll showing that the percentage of Americans who are fans of football has decreased from 67 percent in 2012 to 57 percent in 2017. Meanwhile, basketball increased from 37 percent to 40 percent.

As things currently stand, however, Abdul-Jabbar admitted the NFL has a far larger audience than the NBA. For the sake of comparison, Abdul-Jabbar wrote that the 2017 NBA Finals averaged 20.4 million viewers, while the NFL's regular Sunday Night Football games average 20.3 million viewers, and the Super Bowl reeled in 111 million viewers in 2016.

The six-time NBA MVP offered his analysis on why the tide is starting to turn in the NBA's favor, though.

He believes the danger football presents in terms of head injuries has damaged it in the eyes of fans, especially in the wake of increased research into chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Abdul-Jabbar also cited an ESPN survey that determined basketball is the most popular sport among American youth, while football is third.

Finally, Abdul-Jabbar wrote that the NBA "has been more tolerant of its players' freedom of speech" in comparison to the NFL.

Protesting during the playing of the national anthem has been a hot-button issue within the NFL since then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the practice last season.

Meanwhile, Abdul-Jabbar mentioned star players such as LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant are speaking out on social issues and have been empowered by support from authority figures like Detroit Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy and San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.

Although the 19-time All-Star didn't delve into the subject, it is also difficult to argue against the NBA's star power.

With the likes of James, Curry, Durant, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and others leading the way, the NBA arguably has more recognizable superstars than any other sports league in America.

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