Interesting subplot to Durant vs. LeBron, Westbrook vs. Wade, Ibaka vs. Bosh, and two mediocre coaches going at it in the NBA Finals – what the TV ratings will be like for two tiny TV markets. According to this 2008 list, Miami is the 16th largest TV market; Oklahoma City is 45th.
Numbers should be strong, regardless. The NBA is a star-driven league – as opposed to MLB, which is team-driven, and NFL, which is … yeah, America just loves football – and it doesn’t get any better than the league’s leading scorer vs. the league’s MVP. Between LeBron going for his first title and Durant’s dynasty in the making, expect monster numbers. If the Eastern Conference Finals are any indication, we could be in store for some Jordan-level ratings in the NBA Finals:
Jordan pulled anywhere from a 14-22 rating in 1997 and 1998 (Bulls beat the Jazz both years) and then the league’s ratings dipped for a few years, bottoming out in 2003 during the snoozer than was San Antonio over New Jersey. Since the Finals moved from NBC to ABC in 2002, here are the three highest-rated games:
15.6/27 Boston Celtics vs Los Angeles Lakers Game 7, 2010 NBA Finals
13.8/23 Los Angeles Lakers vs. Detroit Pistons Game 5, 2004 NBA Finals
13.3/23 Dallas Mavericks vs. Miami Heat Game 6, 2011 NBA Finals
LeBron vs. Durant should easily top those numbers for games 5-7. Will the series end up as one of the highest rated in NBA Finals history? I doubt it can crack this group:
NBC 1998 Chicago Bulls 4, Utah Jazz 2 18.7
NBC 1993 Chicago Bulls 4, Phoenix Suns 2 17.9
NBC 1997 Chicago Bulls 4, Utah Jazz 2 16.8
NBC 1996 Chicago Bulls 4, Seattle Supersonics 2 16.7
CBS 1987 Los Angeles Lakers 4, Boston Celtics 2 15.9
But my guess will be an average of 12.9. That’s incredibly optimistic, considering Mavericks/Heat only got a 10.2 last year, and Lakers/Celtics only got a 10.6 the year prior.