NBA Ratings Hitting Record Lows For Lakers, Nuggets, Heat And Celtics

NBA Ratings Hitting Record Lows For Lakers, Nuggets, Heat And Celtics

The last two weeks have not been kind to NBA TV ratings.

Sunday’s Game 2 Western Conference Finals battle between the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets averaged 3.17 million viewers.

That number marks the lowest total for a Conference Finals outing since 2003, when the then-New Jersey Nets and Detroit Pistons averaged 2.72 million for Game 4 of their series.

Last year, a similarly-positioned game between the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers averaged 7.88 million viewers – a 60 percent difference.

One day earlier, on Saturday, Game 3 between the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics averaged 3.81 million viewers. That marked a 38 percent viewership dip from last year’s Toronto Raptors vs Milwaukee Bucks showdown, which did 6.16 million viewers.

Prior to this weekend’s Lakers vs Nuggets match-up, Game 2 between the Heat and Celtics held the notable distinction of touching 17-year ratings lows.

That outing averaged 3.48 million viewers – making it the least-watched Game 2 of an Eastern Conference Finals series since 2003. It also marked a 21 percent decline from last year’s equivalent Raptors-Bucks game.

Game 1 between the Lakers and Nuggets averaged 4.9 million viewers.

All in all, there are a few explanations for these falling numbers.

In the case of the Lakers and Nuggets – clearly Game 1 being a blowout did not do any of the parties involved any favors. It genuinely looked like the Lakers would completely run away with the series.

Game 2, obviously, was far more competitive. If the Nuggets were to win Games 3 and 4, ratings would likely go back up.

As far as the East goes – there is a notable lack of big names present. Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks got the boot early, and Jimmy Butler is arguably the only high profile player remaining.

And despite being beloved by the NBA community, Butler is not yet recognized as a major TV draw.

Jayson Tatum may eventually become a full-blown star in the NBA, but he isn’t there yet either.

Regardless of who comes out of the East, the only way the ratings will go up in the NBA Finals is if the Lakers make it.

Should Denver come back and do to LeBron James and Co. what they did to the Los Angeles Clippers, NBA Finals ratings will likely hit all-time lows.

It is also important to remember that because the NBA season was suspended and then re-started in late August, many playoff games are now going up against NFL outings.

The NFL is a ratings juggernaut, so expecting to top them on a Sunday is just not realistic.

All in all, it will be interesting to see how the NBA responds to its ratings woes in the offseason.

TV ratings are not as important as they used to be, but they still matter. If the NBA doesn’t figure out a way to put a band-aid on this thing now, it could turn into a much bigger problem down the line.

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Carlos Garcia

A longtime sports reporter, Carlos Garcia has written about some of the biggest and most notable athletic events of the last 5 years. He has been credentialed to cover MLS, NBA and MLB games all over the United States. His work has been published on Fox Sports, Bleacher Report, AOL and the Washington Post.


    1. You didn’t cover the biggest problem.
      The elephant in the room which is the huge politicization of sports in general these days and of course the delay due to the pandemic restrictions… people want to relax at sports they don’t want to be preached at and people also got used to not tuning into sports because we never knew when they were going to start back up. So between the pandemic and the pause that was put on sports as well as the slogans on shirts, walkouts and kneel outs from the anthem you’re going to have blow back by certain groups that feel they won’t watch leagues that are in cahoots with China or leagues that don’t want to do the national anthem etcetera. This is the sure way to lose a lot of military audience and different First Responders that are in the country (and their families)…not to mention people of Faith of all races who do not believe in kneeling to anyone besides their God. These are the consequences that the NBA should be considering when they review their lack of ratings…

    2. Who really cares about NBA these days. Lebron James politicizing everything doesn’t help. He’s an assclown anyway. BLM and Antifa are terrorist orgs and if you don’t believe their ideology you must be racist. Really listen to what some in Hollywood are saying. The hatred and racism they denounce is the same they preach. Wake up America. They don’t care about you.

      1. True!!! Sports is for entertainment. If the players want to speak on politics they should do it elsewhere not before, during or after games. And when you speak your opinion be prepared for criticism know matter which side you are on.

  1. Oh yeah … and you forgot to mention that a huge number of fans are simply not watching due to the NBA millionaires politicizing the game. “TV ratings are not as important as they use to be”?!!
    Uhh … reality check please.

  2. Maybe people are tired of the politics playing its way into sports. People don’t want things shoved in their face that they don’t agree with. I loved playoff basketball but now that they are supporting criminals and trying to heroize people who don’t deserve it I have no choice but to turn away. I am not a racist person but do not agree with the agenda being pushed….. I am shocked that this point was not addressed in the article.

  3. This article reads like a cut and paste job from the NBA’s corporate PR department. One has work at being this obtuse. The NBA has boldly taken on the BLM brand. Not the sentiment that black lives matter but the organization itself. BLM is unabashedly Marxist for anyone with the with two minutes to do the most cursory research. What do they need to do paint a hammer and sickle next to the logo on the court at The Bubble for the author (and the NBA) to see the problem? As a prior comment properly noted the NBA, by identifying itself with BLM the organization has also inherently thrown its support to its partner in crime-Antifa. Not to mention its bowing to the CCP for market share.

    If this writer has any pretense of journalistic integrity, he and fellow members of the “sports media” complex will confront Adam Silver and LeBron James, et al on these issues head on instead of bulls…..g the rest of us who KNOW exactly why the ratings are down…

  4. Wow just ignore the oblivious & not talk about how BLM & politics haven’t taken over the game. This is 1984 type reporting to only write about reality in a limited fashion.

  5. Should I say it’s totally unbelievable that this article goes out of its way not to acknowledge what’s really happened to nba ratings?
    Nah, it’s totally believable. They used to write “some might say it’s because the NBA went woke, but nobody smart like us really believes that”
    Now, they just completely leave it out! I used to enjoy nba playoff basketball. Now, I couldn’t possibly care less!

  6. Pretty sure having the name of a violent, Marxist organization wreaking havoc in the streets printed in giant black letters on the court isn’t helping.

  7. I wholeheartedly support the players ability to protest. I also wholeheartedly support the league’s intentions of supporting their players. That being said I have the right not to ever watch another game played in the NBA. I intend to exercise that right.

  8. Itsgame7,

    I would rather watch a week 17 browns v bengals game where both teams can’t make the playoffs.

    Can we acknowledge that Lebron is unwatchable? He complains to Refs when he actually gets a call. The nba can be fun to watch. The nuggets are fun. But Lebron makes it uninteresting and to watch a grown man fuss about calls isn’t a “gather around the TV” event. The coach went to the league after the only loss for the lakers in this series. Really???

    Yes to the politics too. I have many other options to watch news and politics Ratings tanking. No fans perhaps next season. NBA might learn a lesson or two here. We will see.

    Can’t wait to watch some baseball playoffs. Where at most a player gives the evil eye to an umpire or Ohhhh, they will toss you from the game. NBA should consider a similar policy.

  9. Really- if the writer can’t figure out the reason for the decline, then he is in total denial. I was a diehard fan of the NBA my whole life. followed my sixers everyday and night- regardless if they won or lost! After all these years as a fan, they lost me! I honestly hope the league crashes and burns and all these social justice warriors realize they ruined it for all sports fans! Never again! I hope each day someone else wakes up and sees this for what it really is…

  10. I will never watch another NBA game, and I was a huge Lakers fan my entire life. I am so disgusted by the league’s support of the Marxist BLM movement, I can never go back. They have openly stated they are anti-Christian, anti-family, want to abolish jails/prisons, and want to defund the police. Why would any sane person support such an anarchist movement, aimed directly at overthrowing our government. My family’s safety and the integrity of our country will always take precedence over these crybaby millionaires.

    Goodbye, NBA

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