During the NBA lockout there were several — and you know who you are — basketball writers and so-called experts who said the NBA was headed for a dark spring because no one is going to watch a bunch of spoiled athletes paid by a bunch of greedy owners.
Well, guess who’s watching?
The hype surrounding the 2012 NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder resonate with not only the hardcore basketball fans but casual watchers as well. The star power of the league’s marquee event resulted in a record-breaking night for ABC Sports.
According to the Nielsen ratings, Game 1 generated an 11.8 overall rating and peaked at 14.1. The 11.8 rating is up 10 percent compared to last year’s Finals Game 1 between Miami and Dallas, which earned a 10.7. The previous record for Game 1 was 11.6 in 2004 (Detroit vs. Lakers).
In Oklahoma City, the game generated a 44.3 rating, the highest for an NBA game ever in the market. In Miami, the game generated a 30.5 rating.
The game is tailor-made for a ratings bonanza. It is a matchup between a small-market team (Oklahoma City) and a big-market team (Miami) and features two of the best players in the world in Kevin Durant and LeBron James. And as an appetizer you have Russell Westbrook and Dwyane Wade playing in the series. That’s arguably four of the top 10 players in the league competing in basketball’s biggest stage.
The last time the NBA had the reigning scoring champ (Durant) go head-to-head with the reigning MVP (James) was 1997 when Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls faced Karl Malone’s Utah Jazz. But this year’s matchup is much, much sexier than the Jordan-Malone showdown. We have to go back to 1991 when Jordan faced Magic Johnson’s L.A. Lakers to find a comparable dream game.
So all those gloom-and-doom NBA writers who predicted nothing but misery during this lockout-shortened season, here is a big American pie in your face with a little bit of Jason Biggs frosting.