Several weeks ago, I asserted that the “NBA is at the top of its game. It’s hard to think of a time when the league and its players have been more popular and more part of Americana – yes, even more so than during the MJ or Magic and Larry eras.”

I got slammed by several commenters who claimed that TV viewership of the NBA has been declining. The critics have a point about the NBA Finals, but otherwise, the truth about the NBA’s true popularity, and how to measure it, is more complicated.

Although the publicly available data is not ideal, making apples-to-apples comparisons essentially impossible, some facts can be teased out by looking at trends in TV ratings for the regular season and playoffs, trends in TV rights money, comparisons to other sports, and other measures of fan interest in the NBA, to get some answers.

Last year, Randy Harvey writing for the Los Angeles Times started out his article about the NBA’s last season pretty much the…

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