The NFL never fails to captivate its fans. The league, which has long dominated both popular discussion and television ratings in the United States, has always been effective in maintaining an endless stream of news during the offseason, by spacing out the lead-up to its draft, free agency and training camp. As a result, the league captures headlines even in its least active months.


In recent years, the NBA has followed suit by using the NFL’s model to generate year-round fan interest. After the draft, an annual free-agent frenzy begins July 1, followed by the Summer League – two major periods that have helped make the NBA a popular yearlong enterprise.


Free agency has created loads of intrigue with around-the-clock coverage on television and social media, providing fans with constant rumors, theories and information. In the past decade, most notably after LeBron James’ historic 2010 signing with the Miami Heat, the NBA has experienced unprecedented player movement, particularly of its top players opting to play for new teams to join forces with other elite players. This chaotic period always delivers shocking twists and creates excitement among fans about trade possibilities and free agent acquisitions.


Three summers ago, LeBron shockingly returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Last summer, Kevin Durant similarly shocked the sports world by joining the Golden State Warriors, while this summer, stars like Chris Paul, Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Gordon Hayward all relocated to new teams. The free agency period in the NBA threatens to upend the league’s pecking order each summer and, in turn, provides an exhilarating experience for fans eager to see what decisions their favorite stars and teams will ultimately make for the future.


Additionally, the NBA’s Summer League has quickly grown in popularity over the last few years. Although it only hosts exhibition games, the Summer League serves as an unveiling of each team’s top draft choices, who have guaranteed contracts and roster spots. It also acts as an enthralling reality television drama of former college stars playing as late second-round picks, undrafted free agents and basketball vagabonds in their late twenties, fighting in an effort to make a pro roster and achieve NBA glory. Because no established NBA players participate, it sets the stage solely for the league’s top prospects and those desperately trying to achieve a lifelong dream.


Introductions like these have helped make the NBA an enterprise that continues to attract unparalleled attention, as summer games commonly boast upwards of one million views, not including other hype the matchups receive on social media.


Without the presence of existing stars on the court, the summer league provides an unlikely forum for the underdog or overlooked player, yet still satisfies diehard pro and college fans alike. Fan bases of recently moribund pro franchises relish in the hype and hope that a top draft choice provides, while fans of blue blood college basketball programs like Kentucky, UCLA, Duke and Kansas beam with pride over the many high-caliber players they send to the professional ranks each year.


This unique combination allows fans to watch the phenoms of this year’s draft like the Philadelphia 76ers’ Markelle Fultz, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Lonzo Ball and the Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum, while also showcasing lesser-known college stars like Georgetown’s L.J. Peak and Rodney Pryor, who are fighting in the hopes of landing a final roster spot in Houston and Brooklyn, respectively.


This exhibition league has now exceeded over one million views for a single telecast matchup between the summer teams of the Lakers and Celtics, while teams have played in front of packed crowds in Las Vegas. At the same time, free agency transactions regularly are the most mentioned topics on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. These results certainly are not too shabby for a league supposedly in its offseason.


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