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Here’s how the NBA broke attendance for the fourth straight season last year

Here’s how the NBA broke attendance for the fourth straight season last year
[Illustration: Fabrizio Morra]





In an age of distraction, the NBA holds people’s attention. Last year, the league broke attendance records for the fourth straight season; its streaming service grew subscribers by 63%; and total revenue increased 25%. One reason: the year-old NBA 2K League, the first extension of pro sports into esports, which has 21 teams and games that stream on Twitch. “It democratizes our sport,” says NBA commissioner Adam Silver. “It’s open to any body type and requires a different kind of athleticism and skill set.” The NBA also made a deal with MGM, making it the first pro league to integrate real-time data into a gambling platform and enable the kind of in-game micro-betting that keeps viewers watching each and every play. Just as important, the league has improved the on-the-court product: It reduced back-to-back game days to give players more rest, cut the shot clock by 10 seconds off rebounds, and adjusted defensive rules—all of which have produced higher-scoring games. It even abolished rules regarding shoe color and encouraged players to speak out on issues they care about, from politics to fashion. “The more the players can express themselves,” says Silver, “the more touch points there are with fans.”

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