Jason Whitlock: ‘Basketball has underachieved because it’s not run properly’

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Chris Broussard and Mark Schlereth join Colin Cowherd and Jason Whitlock to discuss Jerry West claiming that the NBA will surpass the NFL in popularity.

- Whitlock, you buy it?

- I believe the NBA and basketball has underachieved. And so I get the gist of what Jerry West is saying. If basketball were run properly, I think it would be far more popular. I'm not someone that thinks the NFL is gonna dramatically back up, and that's why the NBA could surpass, you know, the NFL or whatever. I think if basketball ever corrected its college basketball situation, it figured out a way to pay the top stars to actually stay in college and build a brand in college and bring that to the NBA, I think that would improve basketball.

Again, basketball is the one sport that everybody-- my mom, your mom, everybody around the world has played basketball at some level, and understands it. Football is one of the most complicated sports going. No one understands it. But it's far more popular than basketball. Basketball has underachieved because it's not run properly. If Jerry West were actually the commissioner of the NBA, I think it would have a chance.

- Well, I've always thought basketball is star-dependent. In college, the stars are the coaches-- Calipari and Coach K and Izzo. And those programs are the most popular. In the NBA, the most popular teams, the Lakers have had star centers, Wilt and Kareem and then Shaq, and then-- I think football is a little bit bulletproof in terms of it's kind of the shield. It's the system. Whereas I think basketball, Michael Jordan retires, you embrace the wrong players, and like 40% of the fans leave. And I think any time you're star-dependent, you're beholden to an individual, and individuals retire and get hurt and leave-- LeBron leaves tomorrow, you lose a third of the popularity of the league.

- I think you guys are missing the boat. I agree with Jerry West, and I'm thinking 20 to 25 years, the NBA will be at least on par with the NFL, and more popular, I think, because it's going to be global. The world's going to be completely different in 20 years. It won't be about what's more popular in America. It's going to be what's more popular around the world.

You may have franchises in these leagues on different continents. And basketball is by far more popular all over the world. So I do think it will overtake football. It's more in line with youth culture or pop culture, hip hop culture, whatever you want to call it. And in football, we know it's got the concussion issues, and a lot of kids-- good, talented athletes-- are now not playing football. And as that continues to happen, I think--

- That's always been--

- --you take--

- That's all right. Most of--

- --not to the degree that now.

- --that's always been the case. A lot of guys--

- Not like-- come on, man.

- --a lot of guys are scared of football.

COMMENTATOR: Well, yeah, but--

COMMENTATOR: But not-- not 20 years ago. Everybody played football 20 years ago.

- --20 years ago, there was a lot of people that were scared of football and a lot of parents that were scared of football, but there wasn't the national outcry, the national attention to what's going on in football. I've always felt like, hey-- and I've talked to the Players Association-- embrace it. 1,700 people in the world that can play this gladiator sport. You can't? That's your-- that's-- you know, you weren't touched--

COMMENTATOR: That's a you problem.

- --right, that's a you problem. And so I like the contact. I like the hit, and I like all that stuff. I think that gladiator sport is what draws-- part of what draws me to it. Like man, I look at the game now, I'm like, I can't believe I ever played that silly game.

COMMENTATOR: Not everybody can do it.

- Right, not everybody can do it. So embrace that. And the crazy thing is, youth football is being attacked. Youth football is under attack in this state, all over the place in this country. You know more girls suffer concussions playing soccer than boys in youth football? But nobody is attacking youth soccer. It's football that's under the attack in this country.

And that's why I agree with you, it's not going to be anytime soon, but they're going to keep chipping away at it, chipping away at it, chipping away at it, and eventually, 20, 25 years from now, we may be having a legitimate discussion. I agree with you on this point-- the one thing that the NFL has done right, you root for laundry, man.

COMMENTATOR: You do.

- You root for laundry. You don't root for players, you root for the laundry.

- I will say this, though. Adam Silver immediately said, I like gambling. Because Adam Silver knew the one thing the NFL has on us, everybody gambles on football.

COMMENTATOR: Yep. That's exactly right.

- The first week he was in office, he's like-- I don't even think they asked him about it, he was just talking about players, and went, I love gambling. That was Adam Silver saying we're gonna close this puppy.

COMMENTATOR: I actually think that's-- the big advantages football has right now over the NBA are gambling--

COLIN COWHERD: I think that's huge.

- --and fantasy football--

COLIN COWHERD: I think that's huge.

- --which are connected.

COLIN COWHERD: It's a big component.

- Fantasy basketball isn't nearly as big as football.

JASON WHITLOCK: And I'm asking legitimately because I don't know, and this may reveal my stupidity, but isn't gold more valuable than silver because it's more scarce? Isn't-- there's less gold, and that's why it's more valuable. And so again, there's less football. The scarcity. Basketball, it--

COMMENTATOR: There's less boxing. I mean, you talk about gladiator sport, not everybody can-- fewer people want to box than want to play football. And boxing used to be king. But a lot of the greatest athletes stopped boxing, went into other sports.

JASON WHITLOCK: --no, no, no, but my point is, again, one of the things that drives the popularity of football is--

COLIN COWHERD: Not many games.

- --not many games.

- I'll give you that.

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- There are so many games in the NBA that it's just--

COMMENTATOR: It's never--

- --it doesn't have the value.

- --a primetime game in the NFL gets a 14. A primetime game in the NBA gets a 1.4. You know, ratings-wise. I mean, that is a huge discrepancy.

COLIN COWHERD: If you were Adam Silver, so he's already said I like gambling, which I believe is his attempt to move toward the NFL, where gambling is accepted but not, you know-- we all know the NFL likes gambling, they just don't want to talk about it. The second thing is if he cuts games.

- Now you're talking. Now you're making good decisions.

- OK, so gambling Silver and let's cut games, it would create urgency, which, to your point, is scarcity, meaning each game means more.

COMMENTATOR: Right. You can't have your star players, all of a sudden you've got a Saturday nationally televised game and your star player's going, well, I've played three games in a row, man. I'm gonna take today off. Right? Because that just-- that crushes your league.

COMMENTATOR: It does.

- They need to fix them. There's a lot of things they need to fix.

- You mentioned college basketball. College basketball, it was more popular, more interesting when it was just that Saturday afternoon game. You had about two games on Saturday, everybody wanted to watch it. Maybe one during the week. Now they're on every night of the week. You can watch any game. So to your point--

- And very good games on a Friday night or a Thursday. Yeah.

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