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NBA Finals ratings nose-dive, officially become least-watched on record


And it's not even close

Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Apparently a fan-less "bubble" court with "Black Lives Matter" painted on it was not a recipe for success for NBA ratings this year.

What are the details?

According to Nielsen viewership ratings, the NBA Finals averaged just 7.45 million viewers over the course of six games this year, easily making it the least-watched Finals on record, Outkick reported Tuesday.

That's with the series featuring the league's biggest star, LeBron James, continuing his quest for six championships (to tie Michael Jordan) and playing with one of the league's premiere franchises, the Los Angeles Lakers.

Yet as the Lakers capped off the series against the Miami Heat on Sunday, only 8.29 million people watched. For context, that was only slightly more than half the number of people who watched NBC's Sunday Night Football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Minnesota Vikings. The regular season football game earned 15.1 million viewers.

For even more context, the NBA Finals average of 7.45 million viewers dropped more than 50% from last year's Finals average of 15.14 million viewers and even paled in comparison to the new runner-up for least-watched Finals, which averaged 9.29 million viewers. According to OutKick, that was in 2007, when the San Antonio Spurs swept the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers.

On Monday, President Trump mocked the ratings drop on Twitter, saying, "Maybe they were watching in China, but I doubt it. Zero interest!"

What else?

The Finals continued the trend of low viewership that plagued the league during the entirety of this year's playoffs. News broke in September that playoff ratings were down 20% from the previous year, while a subsequent poll found that 38% of fans weren't watching due to the league becoming "too political."

In the aftermath of George Floyd's death in late May, the league and players' union agreed to paint "Black Lives Matter" on the courts and allow racial justice messages to be displayed on the back of players' jerseys.

Though there are likely a variety of reasons for the ratings drop besides the political messaging, such as the off-season schedule and the lack of fans, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver acknowledged last week that politics was likely at least part of the reason.

"I understand those people who are saying 'I'm on your side, but I want to watch a basketball game,'" Silver said in announcing that the messages on courts and on jerseys will likely be pulled next year.

"My sense is there'll be somewhat a return to normalcy — that those messages will largely be left to be delivered off the floor," he said.

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