JJ Redick Photos via First Take on ESPN. Edit by Liam McGuire, Comeback Media.

It should come as no surprise that the NBA commissioner’s most widely noted comments about coverage of the league were prompted by a question by JJ Redick, who became sports media’s main character this week when he called attention to the disparity between hardcore analysis and controversy on First Take. To look at NBA coverage from Silver and Redick’s point of view, the league could leap forward if not for generalist chatter getting in the way.

The commissioner and the newly minted NBA Finals broadcaster simply wish more people knew ball. In particular, Silver contrasted how his league is talked about on television to how his big brothers on the gridiron get dissected. While shows like NFL Live or PFT Live produced by league partners may prove Silver’s point, the byproduct of the NFL’s overwhelming dominance over American sports media is that, by nature, the majority of chatter around the league is pretty elementary. For every deep dive studio show or podcast nerd-out from Mina Kimes or Daniel Jeremiah, there are a dozen local sports talk radio everymen barking about why their team’s OC is an idiot or a genius.

No, Louis Riddick and Chris Simms cutting up All-22 tape is not what makes the NFL king, nor what makes NFL content popular. Redick may be personally frustrated that his First Take hits do better numbers than when he flexes his schematic chops on YouTube, but if he expects that trend to turn any time soon, he’s headed for trouble.

Anyone who believes this is cherry-picking the content they like to make their point. The most popular NFL content this season came from its broadcast booths. Online, the Kelce brothers’ New Heights podcast (which doubled as a tabloid update on Taylor Swift’s love life) and The Pat McAfee Show (a unique force) dominated. Breakout hits like Nightcap from Shannon Sharpe and Chad Johnson, who could hardly be accused of being football’s biggest film grinders, or Games With Names with Julian Edelman combine former athlete storytelling with football talk but are mostly just good hangs. Sure, The Athletic NFL Show or The Mina Kimes Show can satisfy the nerd lane, but breadth is what perpetuates football’s dominance in sports content.

As with so many trends in modern sports media, a closer look at McAfee gives us answers. Earlier in the season, I explained how McAfee’s approach to interviewing made PMS a go-to space for football newsmakers. McAfee scored weekly spots with Aaron Rodgers and Nick Saban because he is a giving host, a true fan, and a football geek. But interviews aren’t the only thing that fans tune in for on PMS.

At least once a day, McAfee Show viewers are treated to recurring segments peering into the details of football. Darius Butler, AQ Shipley, and McAfee himself highlight less-heralded achievements from the NFL weekend, including defensive back play, offensive line play, and special teams dominance. This aligns with what Silver lauded about NFL coverage, but when spun up in the McAfee kaleidoscope, it feeds the average NFL fan who might be turned off by Dan Orlovsky going deep on 11 personnel.

It works not because McAfee is some modern media wizard (though I wouldn’t argue with anyone who thinks he is). Instead, the ingredient so many overlook is that PMS is overwhelmingly celebratory. The same can be said for many popular football-first programs. Pardon My Take is unabashedly obsessed with the NFL and isn’t afraid to geek out despite its smug energy. The ManningCast on Monday nights may feature brotherly BS-ing, but it gets the most attention when Peyton is panicked about clock management or Eli nails a play call.

The power of celebration in NFL content is best exemplified by the attention generated by two active players: Gardner Minshew and Justin Tucker. One is a backup quarter; the the other is a kicker who only appears on the field about a half-dozen times in most games. The average sports fan is vastly more likely to know both athletes than the best player on many NBA teams. Minshew has more Instagram followers than Coby White or Mikal Bridges, young NBA No. 1s in their prime playing in two of America’s three biggest cities. Tucker is a legend among football fans.

Now, one could say the novelty of both NFL stars is not much different than why Boban Marjanovic or Bol Bol are well-known. The difference is NBA shows do not talk about Marjanovic or Bol. A daily live digital show like Gil’s Arena has a chance to become the basketball PMS, but largely pulls for viral moments and beef.

When I spoke with the hosts behind Céspedes Family BBQ for a feature on their move to Yahoo last week, they argued that the same celebratory, content-for-everyone strategy worked wonders for them covering baseball.

“We want to make things that are accessible to different levels of fans,” Jake Mintz told me. “We want to serve people who are really into it and really obsessed, while also being accessible to people who aren’t.”

You can make an argument big-tent sports shows are too focused on one set of NBA players or that the profile of the biggest stars leaves the door open for toxic, personal barbs. Only the biggest consumers of daytime TV would argue First Take has mastered the craft of talking hoops.

Adam Mares, a partner and content head at All City Network who co-hosts the network’s national NBA show with Tim Legler, got to the heart of basketball’s opportunity much better than Redick in a recent interview.

“To get people tuning in daily, personality drives,” Mares explained. “And analysis, while it’s what people like and the more substantive talk, every day for an hour, you’re asking people to not just commit, but pay attention.”

Rather than decry how Stephen A. Smith or Colin Cowherd might cover the NBA, Mares admitted a more vanilla style is much more approachable.

“There are real challenges in how do you make this presentable, digestible and entertaining?” he told me.

Redick is one of the few who has broken through. While he may think his breakdown of the New Orleans Pelicans’ doesn’t do enough numbers, the fact that he has had success with digital content at all speaks to the new opportunities available for niche content.

The modern ecosystem allows for everyone to thrive, only the scale is going to vary, as Redick foe and Fox Sports 1 host Nick Wright posted on X on Wednesday in response to Redick’s viral comments.

Redick has it all. He gets to call games, debate on First Take, and do all the deep analysis he could dream up on his own platform. But if his dream is for the content he puts up on YouTube to dominate basketball chatter day to day, he’s going to have to do more than scold.

Fans want to have fun thinking about, talking about, and watching sports. Getting there will mean making Xs and Os fun, finding silly storylines to champion, and earning the trust of the audience. Plenty of sports fans want to learn, but they want the other stuff, too.

Edelman watches classic games with guests. Jeff Saturday goes on Get Up and talks about big blocks. Sharpe and Johnson give you the mindset of a receiver. Fortunately for Redick, he has much in common with those guys as a former athlete.

If he or anyone else in basketball media wants to make inroads and find some new hungry fans to turn into an audience, he should also find common ground in his ideas around sports.

About Brendon Kleen

Brendon is a Media Commentary staff writer at Awful Announcing. He has also covered basketball and sports business at Front Office Sports, SB Nation, Uproxx and more.