Mickelson > LeBron: PGA Championship Trounces NBA Playoff Ratings

LeBron James
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Last weekend, pro golfer Phil Mickelson became the first golfer in his 50s to win a PGA Championship, but once the TV ratings came in, it also became apparent he beat LeBron James and the entire NBA.

Mickelson won his sixth major pro golf championship when he bested the entire PGA field by six strokes Sunday as he took the win for the PGA Championship at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort in South Carolina. But along with the excitement of Mickelson’s victory, the PGA also averaged 6.58 million viewers and peaked at an astounding 13 million viewers after 7 p.m.

Sunday’s numbers come on the tail of several years of growth for the PGA’s viewership. According to Sports Business Journal reporter John Ourand, the final round of the PGA Championship earned 5.2 million viewers last year and 5.0 million in 2019.

But a look at the numbers shows that Mickelson’s win thrilled far more viewers than the LeBron James-led NBA playoffs. The PGA Championship swamped the NBA finals. Again, according to Ourand, the NBA struggled to reach 4.4 million viewers for its premier playoff game, featuring James.

Ourand noted that the numbers for the NBA were shockingly low:

  • Lakers-Suns: 4.4 million viewers
  • Celtics-Nets: 3.8 million
  • Hawks-Knicks: 3 million
  • Grizzlies-Jazz: 2.7 million
  • Wizards-Sixers: 1.9 million

In decades past, sports broadcasts have been automatic ratings winners. Usually, when any pro sport airs a championship, it beats any regular network show. But at least for the NBA, that appears no longer to be true.

According to the Los Angeles Times, many network series regularly bury the NBA’s ratings. For instance, on CBS, one of the NBA’s partners, NCIS averages 9.75 million viewers, 60 Minutes earns 6.9 million, FBI wins 7.7 million, and sitcom Young Sheldon earns 7.6 million watchers. Meanwhile, even a playoff game featuring the NBA’s biggest star couldn’t earn 5 million viewers.

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