NBA Ratings In Free Fall After Brief Boycott

NBA Ratings In Free Fall After Brief Boycott

The NBA’s ratings are in an inexplicable free fall after a brief player-led boycott last week.

Game 5 between the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers was the least viewed game of the entire series, drawing 2.92 million viewers.

Last year, a showdown between the Denver Nuggets and San Antonio Spurs drew 3.49 million viewers in a comparable time slot.

The Lakers are consistently among the NBA’s most watched ball clubs and feature the league’s biggest star in LeBron James, so the fact that even they are swimming against a current of apparent disinterest is notable.

Moreover, in this case at least, the problem is not simply people cutting the cord or not watching TV. On the same day the Lakers and Blazers played Game 5, NASCAR’s race at Daytona drew 3.87 million viewers.

That same Saturday following the boycott, the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder played their Game 5. It drew 2.14 million viewers – down 30 percent from what the Philadelphia 76ers and Toronto Raptors drew for their Game 1 in a comparable time slot last year.

The next day, the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks played Game 6 of their much-discussed series. Despite these two teams generating the most headlines of any in the first round of the NBA playoffs, their crucial game drew 2.32 million viewers – down five percent from the 2.43 million Game 5 drew pre-boycott.

Although it is debatable whether or not the boycott permanently hurt the NBA’s ratings or they were simply going to fall anyway, it is safe to say it probably didn’t help.

All in all, this year’s NBA Playoff ratings continue to be down 20 percent from last year.

NBA Ratings Were A Secondary Story Last Week

While NBA ratings intrigue is always a fun topic of conversation, the real story of last week was the spontaneous, player-launched boycott initiated by the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday, August 26.

That day, in response to the police shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake, the Bucks decided not to take the floor for their Game 5 showdown versus the Orlando Magic. The four teams involved in two other outings that day – the Rockets, Thunder, Blazers and Lakers – also opted not to play.

The same evening, players and coaches gathered to come up with a gameplan on how to proceed. By all accounts, their meeting was a tense one.

Udonis Haslem exchanged strong words with James. James came at the younger guys. Patrick Beverley went at Michele Roberts. Clippers head coach Doc Rivers had to play the role of mediator. All in all, nothing was resolved that night.

The next morning, a smaller consortium of players and owners met for a second meeting. At that point, a deal eventually got worked out and all parties agreed to proceed with the playoffs.

Chris Paul and Andre Iguodala were among those credited with really making the case for a continuation of play, ultimately saving the season.

LeBron James Came Out Looking Really Bad

One of the more fascinating tidbits to emerge from the entire boycott saga was how bad James looked throughout.

He was originally on the minority side of wanting to call off the NBA season when almost everyone else wanted to keep going. On top of that, a lot of players didn’t really appreciate the way he went about communicating his wants and needs.

“I’ve heard, first of all, that he was speaking out of pocket and was talking to the players in a fashion that really turned off some of these young cats off,” Stephen A. Smith said on ESPN last week.

“The younger generation of players were not having what they were hearing from LeBron James because the fashion in which he spoke to them. When he stormed out of there, I was told it was in part because of that — and he sort of came off like ‘I got mine, I don’t need this.’”

James also apparently did not earn himself any new fans the next day, at the meeting where everything was ultimately resolved.

“When everybody thought the meeting was over, LeBron James grabs the mic, and from what I’m told, talks for about 15 minutes, and he’s talking for about 15 minutes in a fashion that turned everybody off because they had already agreed to what they were going to do moving forward,” Smith continued.

“And he was talking about ‘the guys beneath me, I have to look out for the guys beneath me’ to the point where you have people saying, ‘What the hell you mean, beneath you?’

“Now they didn’t say that to him, but they certainly said it to people like myself, Woj and others who were covering that meeting. He came across as if he was the king with some crown and what have you, and it was a real, real turnoff.”

Many were left wondering in the aftermath if perhaps James’ bad attitude was the byproduct of him wanting to be the face of the boycott but none of the other players really viewing him that way.

Either way, James caught a lot of shrapnel. It remains to be seen if it will have any lasting impact on his reputation among players and fans alike.

So What Does This All Mean For NBA Ratings?

Big picture, what do last week’s events mean for ratings? It is hard to say.

There are varying schools of thoughts as to why NBA ratings are down.

If one belongs to the camp of thinking it has to do with the league pushing political messaging too strongly, then presumably a high-profile, politically-charged boycott (albeit, a brief one) probably won’t help.

However, there are also a lot of people out there who think the ratings decline has nothing to do with politics, and everything to do with changing consumer habits. If that is the case, then the boycott likely will not have a significant impact.

The problem for the NBA is that no matter what school of thought you subscribe to, the end result is the same – ratings are down. And whether its because of politics or cord-cutting, there is no feasible scenario where either of those things change at any point in the foreseeable future.

At some point, the NBA will need to confront the fact that a league which absolutely owns the social media conversation daily can’t seem to convert any of those Twitter followers to actual viewers. Until a solution to that problem is found, the viewership numbers will likely continue to plunge.

Related: NFL Team Considers Boycotting Game 1 Of NFL Season

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. Inexplicable????? Ultra rich, spoiled athletes preaching to me about social justice??? I get up everyday, I go to work every day. I take care of my family and participate in my community every day. It’s a hard slog, but I don’t complain. I will NEVER enjoy the privilege that these a$$holes enjoy. F**k ’em. They can go cry in someone else’s milk. I will never watch again.

      1. Same, feel exactly the same. I looked up last Years viewers count, over 15 million; last night 2.8 million. They got what they deserved. Protesting over a rapist. Ask Blake’s victim how that made her feel?

  2. I think the author meant “entirely foreseeable and predictable free fall” rather than “inexplicable.” Unless he’s an oblivious idiot. We want to watch sports, not get deluged with ideological crap by overpaid kids playing a game on TV. We’re flooded with racist political garbage 24/7, it seems. I want to watch sports to GET AWAY from that excrement. If these incredibly privileged, ill-informed athletes want to play ball, I’m in. But if they want to use the court as a free speech arena for their personal pet interests, then I’ve got better things to do with my free time. If I was an Owner, I’d fire any player who wasn’t “all in” on the game — without the distractions of political/social statements. They can publicly demonstrate their political and social ignorance on their own time. I miss the NBA. It used to be all about sports. Now it’s just another political organization. I’d rather go to the dentist than sit through an NBA game these days.

    1. The NBA allowed them. Catered to them. Coddled them. Adam Silver needs to take back the brand. Complete bonehead of a commissioner letting the players dictate the restart SJW insanity.

  3. Really, is there any explanation for the dumpster fire that is the NBA? Disrespect the flag? Loathe and despise our country? Utterly submit to Red China? Affiliate with Marxist terrorists, Burn Loot Murder, and ANTIFA? Openly call for racist grievance vengeance? If this butchering of the golden goose does not stop soon, the WNBA could even start losing fans. Professional sports cannot go broke soon enough for me.

  4. The stupidity!
    It BURNS!

    “inexplicable free fall…”

    You NBA Burn Loot Murder morons missed something obvious; We’re not boycotting you despite the fact that we still want to watch, we’re gone forever because you’re vile garbage and we don’t want to watch vile garbage and we won’t give you our money.
    You’ve shown your true colors, there is no way to ‘un-ring’ that bell.

    Jacob Blake is a rapist who was fighting the officers and reaching for a weapon when he was rightfully shot.
    That’s your latest hero?

    Floyd George died of a drug overdose, he was a disgusting career criminal who committed armed robberies and put a gun to a pregnant woman’s belly, and he’s your hero.

    Rayshard Brooks passed out dead drunk in a drive through, he fought the police and was shot.
    He spent 12 months in jail for cruelty to children and 12 months in jail for domestic violence.
    A wife beating child abusing drunk driver, your hero.

    You need new heroes.
    Try Candace Owens or Larry Elder or Thomas Sowell.

  5. What do these millionaire SJW care about ratings? They just assured they would get paid and to hell with everything else. Maybe they could take the down time to actually read about the goals of BLM and ANTIFA. If that’s too dull, read the arrest records of they beloved martyrs. Maybe their agent will give them the cliff notes version so they can have time to count the money they make off sweat ship shoes.

  6. I am a avid fan of the NBA and love basketball so much! But, I do believe politics and sports should never co-mingle. Admittedly, when they kneel for the Athem, it truly offends me and I mute all the pregame stuff. I am a Christian and believe we should only kneel for God. I think all this boycotting will come back to bite them in the butt!

    1. I’m an avid NBA fan as well but since the boycott I refuse to watch anymore no matter how difficult it is :). Did the boycott do anything positively to impact their opinion on anything? No, but they abandoned their fans the politicians don’t care about basketball or the nba boycott. No impact on them just the fans. So disgusted maybe they are so privileged now that they feel bad for it and try to compensate. They should help educate and teach about respecting people as that would eliminate most of the Uncalled for shootings. I’ve witnessed far too many times the young kids standing up to and disrespecting authority figures. Something has gotta change so be the change and educate instead of condoning disrespect and condemn someone serving our community. Sorry lil rant. Bye NBA

  7. Because I refuse to believe the author lacks the rudimentary intelligence to conjure up even a wild guess as to why the NBA’s ratings are collapsing, I must conclude a much more malicious motive.

  8. Dear Carlos – You’re either too stupid to understand that Americans don’t want overpaid multi-millionaires preaching to us about privilege or you’re too weak to point out the truth.

    Which is it?

  9. OK, I’m gonna give the kid some slack, here. I mean, he’s just a 5-year-in, 20-womething schmo writing for one of umpteen million sports pages on the web, and obviously his bosses said “Hey, dude, write a thing about this but try to make it sound balanced. Or something.”

    And I have to admit, he tried. Really tried. Failed miserably, but honestly gave it the ol’ college try. You couldn’t pay me enough to take that assignment. So hopefully in the near future the job he really wants will open up and he can leave this cesspool behind. It ain’t him – it’s the corner office dickheads who don’t have the smarts, eyeballs or scrotum to call it out so they shove it onto young Carlos.

    Dues, kid. You’re paying them.

  10. I am a lifelong NBA fan and like many of you commenting here I was extremely disappointed in the actions of the NBA players. They seem to think they are more important than the game itself and especially the fan base upon which they’re huge salaries are paid. It was interesting that they walked out of the meeting that night voting not to play, led by the players with the most championships (And $) in the room. I’d like to say cooler heads prevailed but I think what really happened is they realized how much money they would forgo by not playing. Thus I actually think greedier heads prevailed. Nice to see all these guys have principles as long as they’re free. Doesn’t look like many were willing to sacrifice much for these causes it seem to matter to them so much. Enough said I’m boycotting at least the rest of the season.

  11. “The NBA’s ratings are in an inexplicable free fall after a brief player-led boycott last week.”



    Hmmmmm… I wonder what could it be?

  12. Lebron has to be one of the most privileged people in this country, white or black. Once he noticed the power he acquired, he has completely orchestrated his career, leaving Cleveland twice, leaving Miami, going to LA, and leaving teams in shanbles along the way. He thinks he controls the country but he has shown he has little respect, if any, for anyone but his little posse and even they get thrown out eventually. MJ had the same power, but he stayed in Chicago and built a dynasty because he seemed to care about his team. I don’t care what Lebron has to say, he is just an egotist trying to masquerade as a leader for everyone. Hopefully the NBA collapses.

  13. WTF you don’t know why the No Body Anymore league’s ratings are in free fall? Disrespecting our country by knelling because you really think cops are killing blacks like a sport is insulting to all Americans. You know that’s bullcrap. Blacks killing each other and killing innocent children in Chicago everyday. BLM Don’t Matter in Chicago or Portland, Seattle, NY, St. Louis or anywhere else. Why don’t those lives matter? NBA is done because of the stupidity of the players, coaches, & owners for making hero’s out of life long criminals. Idiots for ruining a good sport. We the people don’t need you as much as you need our dollars. Get a real job, try that.

  14. I agree with all of the above. One thing I’ll mention is that when Montrezl Harrell called Luka Doncic a “bitch ass white boy.” and nobody (i.e James, Silver or Popovitch for example) called Harrell out as making an Unacceptable Racist comment, they stripped away any legitimacy they had as far as trying to fight racism. You can’t have it both ways.

  15. I will never watch another NBA game again. I’ve been a fan since I was 8 years old, nearly 40 years now, but I’m done.

    This is a huge sacrifice for me, I love the Mavericks so much, and watching Luka become what he’s become these last 2 years has be the one of the greatest sports joys in my lifetime. I refuse to hate myself enough to satisfy BLM or their supporters in the NBA.

    I cannot take the hypocrisy, what happened last year in China compared to whats being said now.

    Sports is and escape from the drudgery of every day life. Or it used to be. Now its part of the drudgery of life.

    I’m guessing every one of these players makes around 10,000 times more than a teacher in the same city they play in…..what have they done about it?

  16. I SUPPORT THE PLAYERS.. I WILL JOIN THEM IN THEIR BOYCOTT.. TAKE THE PLEDGE WITH ME NOT TO WATCH, ANY PRO SPORTS TILL RACISM ENDS.. This includes buying Ticket.. Merchandise or any supporting any company that pays a pro player to sell their product. Take this pledge or be Racist.

  17. “The NBA’s ratings are in an inexplicable free fall after a brief player-led boycott last week” No….. not inexplicable. You just explained it. PLAYER LED BOYCOTT. Leave politics out of sports. NBA is circling the drain

  18. Will I ever go to another NBA game? Probably not because to tell you the truth I found a lot more interesting things to do with my time during the pandemic than watch and or listen to NBA games.
    Is there racism in America?Yes. Was it disappearing? More so with each passing year. Are there some bad cops? Yes and the correct answer was and still is root them out, give better training to all police. Make heroes out of Floyd,etc and ignore and be silent over black on black crime? Pure hypocrisy and weakness and stupidity and naivete of every liberal citizen, clergy person , mayor , governor and congresspersons and senators who grovel at the feet of BLM and by extension BDS.
    Is there racism among black Americans against whites, Japanese/Americans, Korean/Americans, Chinese/Americans, Jewish/Americans, Vietnamese/Americans,LAtino/Americans? You bet there is and its higher than the vice-versa.Why is that? Because racism and prejudice are a byproduct of any uneducated group and especially so within a victim culture.
    What % of NBA players actually voted in past elections? We probably dont want to know.
    The hypocrisy and double standard goes on and on for these great athletes, entertainers, etc. Being a great athlete does not make you a great person and it certainly does not make you a better or more intelligent or more caring person. I would guess in the majority of cases it does just the opposite, it makes you a more self centered and selfish person.

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