👋 Good morning! Zion Williamson makes his NBA debut for the Pelicans tonight against the Spurs (9:30pm ET, ESPN), so we're giving away his jersey! Enter at the bottom.
Today's word count: 1,442 words (5 minutes)
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
The NBA has embraced social media as a way to drive fan engagement, and it's working. Problem is, "engagement" isn't "viewership," and what plays well on social media doesn't necessarily make fans want to tune in to the games.
Driving the news: In the two months since we were first made aware of the NBA's declining TV ratings, all kinds of theories have been posed to explain the dip.
Yes, but: With Reddit activity also on the decline, it seems something much larger could be at play here.
Between the lines: What happens on social media — which tends to be more off-court drama than, say, on-court analysis — is now setting the conversation for everything else, seeping into TV broadcasts and driving day-to-day coverage.
By the numbers: Earlier this month, one Twitter user analyzed posts from ESPN and Bleacher Report accounts to determine what they were promoting.
The big picture: An entire generation has grown up watching highlights instead of the actual games, with many of them following players' exploits on Instagram more closely than their accomplishments on the court.
The bottom line: This isn't just an NBA problem. As fandom continues to shift from "full games and box scores" toward "highlights and IG Stories," the relationship between leagues, media partners and social platforms is bound to evolve.
At this point in the pre-draft process, the evaluation of college players is roughly 75% complete based on in-season scouting and film study. Here's a mock draft to give you a sense of where things stand as we inch closer to April 25.
P.S. ... Speaking of the draft, things are going to get weird in Vegas this year, where the red carpet will be .... in the Bellagio Hotel fountain.
Derek Jeter came one vote short of being the second-ever unanimous pick for the Baseball Hall of Fame last night, while Rockies legend Larry Walker also earned baseball's highest honor (and celebrated in a SpongeBob SquarePants shirt).
LAWRENCE, Kan. — A massive bench-clearing brawl erupted at the end of the rivalry game between Kansas and Kansas State (video). There were punches thrown, and at one point, Jayhawks big man Silvio De Sousa picked up a stool. Expect big punishments and suspensions to follow.
CHICAGO — The Panthers got coach Joel Quenneville a win in his return to Chicago, using a hat trick by Frank Vatrano to beat the Blackhawks 4-3 for their NHL-best sixth straight victory.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — With the Dubai Desert Classic set to begin tomorrow, Bryson DeChambeau, Sergio Garcia and others posed with "Latifa" and "Rashid," two of the main mascots for the upcoming World Expo 2020 in Dubai. (Note: If you have mascot nightmares the rest of the week, I'm truly sorry.)
"It's been 20 years since Mark Cuban bought the Mavericks, a timeline that has seen the 61-year-old evolve from a small fish among NBA owners to the biggest one in the tank," The Ringer's Katie Baker writes:
"Luka Doncic hadn't been born yet when Mark Cuban’s online streaming company, Broadcast.com, made its initial public offering in July 1998. ... And Doncic was only an infant in April 1999, when Cuban sold that same business to Yahoo for $5.7 billion in stock and pretty much top-ticked the dot-com market."
"So when I ask the 20-year-old Doncic whether he remembers how he first heard about Cuban ... it makes sense that the young Slovenian point guard's answer is at best tangential to Cuban's '90s tech trajectory and even to the NBA. 'Probably because of Shark Tank,' Doncic says. To the future of the franchise, the origins of ownership may as well be ancient history."
🏀 5 five-stars
Montverde Academy, the Florida prep powerhouse with an alumni list that includes Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and D'Angelo Russell, might have the best high school roster of all time this season. Led by Cade Cunningham, the projected No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA draft, the team has 5 five-star prospects and eight players ranked in the top 65 of their class.
The average resale price for Super Bowl tickets on SeatGeek is currently $6,568, per the company, putting it well ahead of past Super Bowls. ... In related news, StubHub has partnered with Affirm to let customers buy Super Bowl tickets (and make other expensive purchases) on a payment plan.
⛳️ 45 years old
In an effort to "bring greater attention to the most deserving players at a time in their careers when they are still competing at the highest level," the World Golf Hall of Fame has lowered its age limit from 50 to 45. Now eligible in 2021: Tiger Woods.
31 years ago today, Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and the 49ers beat Boomer Esiason, Cris Collinsworth and the Bengals, 20-16, in Super Bowl XXIII.
Travel back in time...
Siarhei Shylovich of Belarus (white) attempts a shot against Joan Canellas Reixach of Spain (black). Photo: Andrea Kareth/SEPA.Media /Getty Images
The 2020 European Men's Handball Championship is currently underway, with Austria, Norway and Sweden co-hosting one of the biggest events of the year leading up to the Tokyo Olympics.
The Lions have the longest active Super Bowl drought among NFL teams at 54 years.
Answer at the bottom.
Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images
To celebrate his return to the hardwood, we're giving away a Zion Williamson jersey.
Kendall "Mel Kiper" Baker
Trivia answer: Browns and Jets