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Created: Jun 21, 2019
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Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts after hitting a three pointer in the third quarter against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on April 19, nba 2k20 myteam coins in Miami, Florida. He was not, it turns out, there to make friends. Eric Espada/Getty Images

First, it's fitting the quote came from Embiid, an incessantly likable, forever trolling behemoth of a man who entered the NBA with an inherent understanding of how this whole thing works now—how it's possible to briefly stop time (at least time as it's observed by NBA Twitter) with a single comment.

But the quote from Embiid hints at a truth central to the NBA's designated status as the Ascendant League: It owes a fair bit of that rising popularity to its similarity to reality television. And that's a compliment, zero backhandedness intended.

The NFL remains a cruise liner overflowing with cash steered by a cabal of billionaires hoping to squeeze a couple extra Hefty bags of Benjamins into the closets, cupboards and bathtubs. In other words, the NFL is steady, even if the waters are increasingly troubled, what with declining (but still massive) ratings and a concussion crisis that isn't going away. The NBA, meanwhile, is a party yacht with a line around the block to climb aboard. It's fun as all hell.

It helps that the NBA's analytics revolution concluded that dunks and three-pointers—the plays that are the most fun to watch—are incredibly efficient. But the NBA leaning into its reality-TV-ness has a big part in its rising popularity—regular-season ratings just hit buy cheap mt 2k20 four year high and the playoffs have opened really strong.

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