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The NBA is Thrilled The LA Lakers Are Back

This post is part of our NBA week series, where we explore all things NBA leading up to opening night on October 31st.

 

*This post is brought to you to by Elizabeth Benson of LakersNation.com. You can also find her @gobibs on Twitter.*

The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the elite franchises in all of
professional sports, that is no secret. With a net worth of approximately
$900 million (tops the NBA), a 2012 player payroll of over $100 million
(including nearly $28 million being shelled out to Kobe Bryant), 16
championship titles and dedicated, strong and worldwide fanbase, there is
no doubt of the power and influence that the Lakers have acquired in over
60 years of establishment.

The Lakers responded to the new collective bargaining agreement’s (CBA)
main goal to equalize the power that large market teams (mainly the Lakers)
have in the NBA and the money that comes with that power. They proved to
the league that despite stricter luxury tax violations and an increase to
the revenue sharing system, the Lakers are *the Lakers* and they will still
get what they want, even if they have to find loopholes, etc.

The Lakers not only kept that championship window open for another couple
of years under the helm of Kobe Bryant by signing Steve Nash and Dwight
Howard, but they ushered in a smooth transition that will lead to a future
era of sustainable competitiveness after Kobe and Nash hang up their jersey
for the final time under the direction of Howard. One move is all is took
(it did take awhile and was complex) for the Lakers to position themselves
in a place to answer to question, “what happen next?”

It is decisions like this that proves why the Lakers are so important to
the league and why their success impacts the overall performance of the
NBA. Of course there are countless “Laker haters” out there that thirst for
the opportunity to see the Lakers fail. However, that point only goes to
show you that people pay attention to every move that the Lakers make, big
or small.

For example, social media is quickly becoming the biggest and most popular
platform for communication and socialization, including sports. The Lakers
lead all NBA team with over 2.7 million Twitter followers and over 14.9
million Facebook likes. Compare that to the actual NBA’s over 6.1 million
Twitter followers and over 14.6 million Facebook likes. Long story short,
people are interested in the Lakers and want to know and watch them,
whether you are a fan or not.

David Stern salivated over the actual occurrence of last season’s NBA
Finals between the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder. There was a
general consensus that that was what Stern hoped for and to be honest, the
series was entertaining. Put LeBron in a familiar situation of a necessity
to be clutch, and people will tune in regardless of who the opponent is.
LeBron has been probably the most polarizing NBA player for several years
in the world of sports. You either love him, or you hate him. Therefore,
people (some not even NBA fans) will tune in to watch him win or fail in
the most crucial times. Having a sort of “the good guys” in OKC as the team
who a lot of people were rooting for them to repeat what Dallas was able to
do the previous year, only benefited Stern and the Finals’ rating and
atmosphere.

However, that was last year and after two consecutive boots in the
second-round of the playoffs by the Lakers after reaching the Finals three
years straight (2008-2010), was there really any doubt that the Lakers and
their genius front office wouldn’t make a charge in the off-season? We are
talking about the Lakers here. Their 16 titles didn’t happen by chance or
by luck.

With the new-look roster put together by Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss, the
Lakers are favored to win the West and reach the Finals for the 32nd time
in franchise history. Based on last season’s statistic of Heat versus
Lakers games in the regular season, Stern should change his personal goal
of seeing a Miami/LA Finals in June and fostering this rivalry throughout
the season. The following shows it in black and white.

“ABC’s broadcast last Sunday [March 4, 2012] of the Miami Heat at the
Lakers NBA game was the network’s most-viewed non-Christmas Day,
regular-season NBA game ever, according to the network. The game averaged
7,037,000 viewers according to Nielsen ratings and received a 4.3 national
rating, which tied ABC’s previously highest-rated non-Christmas Day game —
a Lakers-Celtics contest Jan. 30, 2011.”

The Heat and the Lakers are two of the most talked about teams in the
league. Hate them, love them, they generate interest, relevance and
influence. An NBA Finals featuring a Kobe versus LeBron battle would be
pure ecstasy for basketball fans.

The very fact that I’m talking about the Lakers returning to the Finals
being the overwhelming consensus after two disappointing and rather
lackluster performances in the playoffs proves their influence in the NBA
and the world of sports. No other team in the NBA receives as much media
and fan attention (over the franchise’s history) as the Lakers. The history
and culture narrates their goal of winning every single season. Fans love
that, the media loves that and the league loves and needs that.

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