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NBA youthful stars set to bring the game into the future

All of the first-round playoff matchups are complete and while they did not always come up on the...

NBA youthful stars set to brin...
Other Sports

NBA youthful stars set to bring the game into the future

All of the first-round playoff matchups are complete and while they did not always come up on the winning side, the NBA's young stars dazzled in Orlando.

There has been a considerable concern for some time over the declining ratings for basketball in the United States.

ABC's viewership figures have plummeted by 45% between 2011-12 and 2020, as reported by Ethan Strauss of The Athletic.

That is a huge figure for the league that has consistently looked to expand outside America.

There are several reasons for the decline in ratings for the NBA and different solutions have been put forward to address the problem.

The most important thing, however, is the quality on display and whether there is enough young talent to bring the sport forward in the current decade.

LA Clippers, LA Lakers, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, NBA Los Angeles Clippers' Kawhi Leonard, right, steals the ball from Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James (23) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

The answer to that question is an overwhelming yes, and it has been evident throughout the playoffs.

While the eventual winners of the NBA championship will likely still be one of the established stars in the game, LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard come to mind, the truth is the real drama and excitement of the opening round has been produced by the next wave of superstar talent in the league.

Young stars come to the fore

Donovan Mitchell and Jamal Murray, both 23-years of age, lit up the first-round with a shootout for the ages, creating history in the process. Mitchell and Murray became the first two players to have multiple 50- point games in the postseason.

Their faceoff in the fourth quarter of Game 6 was nothing short of spectacular as each man rained down three-point bombs back-to-back.

The only disappointing part of this whole equation is that someone had to lose and Mitchell's Utah Jazz came up on the short end of a Game 7 loss to Murray's Denver Nuggets.

You can throw Luka Doncic into this equation as well. Doncic's Dallas Maverick's may have exited at the hands of the LA Clippers in the first round, however, they did so after the Slovenian put up monster numbers in the series.

His Game 4 buzzer-beater winning shot added to the excitement and showed just how talented the new guard are. Doncic broke a number of records during the series while averaging 31 points per game.

He became the youngest player to record a 40-point triple-double and became the youngest player outside of Magic Johnson to have back-to-back triple-doubles in the playoffs.

Despite the loss to LA, Doncic capped an MVP calibre season with some mesmerising performances in big moments in the playoffs. At 21, there is so much to look forward to from Luka Magic in the future.

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics are another pair of budding young superstars. They led the Celtics to a first-round sweep of Philadelphia.

Jamal Murray and Donovan Mitchell embrace after their NBA first round playoff basketball game. Utah Jazz's Donovan Mitchell (45) and Denver Nuggets' Jamal Murray, center rear, greet each other after their NBA first round playoff basketball game, Tuesday, Sept. 1,2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Nuggets won 80-78. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Tatum has been particularly brilliant and put up a career-high 34 playoff points in Tuesday's Eastern Conference semi-final Game 2 to take Boston within two wins of the Eastern Conference Finals.

While there are a myriad of reasons why the NBA's ratings are dropping, as outlined expertly by Strauss above, these core young stars will be the bedrock of the organisation's growth in the current decade and beyond.

They have all stepped up and performed when it matters most and proven their value on the court.

Leaders on and off the court

It has been even more impressive watching many of them becoming vocal leaders in the current fight for social and racial justice in the US.

An empty NBA court in Orlando Florida

Whether that be Brown leading Black Lives Matter marches in Atlanta or Murray's emotional postgame speech focusing on Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, the younger generation of NBA stars have become leaders in more ways than one.

When the likes of James, Leonard and Kevin Durant do retire, the league is in excellent hands.

Can the NBA replicate the do or die nature of playoff basketball to encourage people to watch the regular season with more interest?

Will they introduce a mid-season tournament, to give those ordinary games a jolt, as has previously been discussed?

There is no guarantee that this will increase the NBA's visibility but having a quality product is the first step in doing so.

In Brown, Doncic, Mitchell, Murray and Tatum the league certainly has that.

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Boston Celtics Dallas Mavericks Denver Nuggets Donovan Mitchell Jamal Murray Jaylen Brown Jayson Tatum Luka Doncic NBA Utah Jazz