It’s been awhile since the NBA Finals have not included LeBron James, and if the ratings following Game 1 are any indication, the Association will need him back in the championship series as soon as possible.
Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors drew a 10.1 overnight rating.
Ἴ#NBAFinals on ABC Game 1 draws strong 10.1 overnight rating (Nielsen).
📺53rd straight time ABC has generated double-digit overnight ratings for the NBA Finals.
📺NBA Finals on ABC expected to win night across TV for 65th consecutive time.
(Canadian ratings not included). pic.twitter.com/JRthSom0Dt
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) May 31, 2019
Sounds good, right? Well, it does until you go behind the numbers and realize that 10.1 rating represents an 18% drop from 2018, and the lowest since Game 1 of the 2009 Finals series between the Lakers and the Magic.
The sky is not falling for the NBA. Without Toronto numbers, ABC drew 10.1 overnight rating for Warriors-Raptors Game 1. Yes, -18% from Warriors-Cavs 2018 and lowest Game 1 since Lakers-Magic 2009. But 10.1 is still WAY above 8.0 for Spurs-Cavs 2007 or even Heat-Mavs 2006 (9.3)
— Austin Karp (@AustinKarp) May 31, 2019
Of course, the Warriors are making their fifth consecutive Finals appearance, so fans might be over seeing the boys from the Bay in May. However, the absence of LeBron James, the games best and most popular player, cannot be understated.
Earlier this month, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver spoke at length about how James moving West and joining the Lakers, negatively impacted league ratings.
“Face it, LeBron is one of the biggest stars in the world, and he also played in the East,” Silver said of the better ratings in the past.
Silver added, “a lot of our games are in the West, and it’s late at night. And I recognize most people choose to go to sleep at a reasonable time. And so, from a rating standpoint, not having LeBron in the playoffs, not having him in the East, has clearly impacted ratings.”
The NBA boss noted that people in the east simply give up on the games if they don’t end before 11:30 PM Eastern.
“Fifty percent of television households in this country are in the Eastern time zone,” Silver said.
And so if your West Coast games start at 10:30 at night in the East, you’re invariably going to lose a lot of viewers around 11, 11:30. I mean, you can just chart it. You see how many television households turn off around 11:15, 11:30 at night, just because people have to get up for work in the morning.”
I mean, it is something we can address. We’re talking about it. I mean, it would obviously be less convenient to those fans on the West Coast if we played even earlier. I mean, just think about people getting to those arenas after work if you start a game at 6 p.m. local time in the West. It’s not the most convenient thing. It’s not as convenient for a television watcher on the West coast, either. But when you look at the league from a national standpoint, it may make sense to play a little bit earlier in the West.
Game 2 of the NBA Finals will take place at 8 PM EST on ABC.
Follow Dylan Gwinn on Twitter @themightygwinn