The 2020 NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat were the least watched league’s finals since 1974, according to Nielsen viewing data. Around 7.45 million viewers on average tuned in to watch the six-game series which saw the Lakers win their 17th championship.
It was a 51% decrease from the year before when the Toronto Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors in six games as well. A poll linked the drop in viewership with the NBA and its biggest stars being ‘too political’. Sports analyst Colin Cowherd thought that the league’s ratings could have plummeted due to its open anti-Trump stance.
Another sports analyst Clay Travis shared his thoughts on the NBA’s ratings going down for some time now. “Last year all the blue checks out there, all the blue check brigade members on Twitter said ‘Well, the reason why the NBA ratings are down and hit an all-time low during the regular season was because the season was bifurcated, they were in a bubble part of the year, it was a challenge to complete, you can’t look at last year’s ratings as an arbiter of how the NBA is doing,'” he said on OutKick.
“Alright. So let’s look at it this year. The NBA is poised to hit an all-time low in television ratings this year playing a roughly equivalent and easy schedule one that started later in the year and theoretically with fewer games being played would lead to more national interest. Instead, the NBA brand has continued to plummet.
“The overall viewership for national basketball games that are played on TNT and ESPN is going to be down substantially. Since 2012 the NBA has lost nearly half of all of their fans that were watching the games. And I’m telling you what happened. The NBA got woke and they have gotten broke. They told half of the United States ‘We don’t like you and we don’t want you watching our product and half of United States said ‘Goodbye’.”
Travis then brought up the number of fans that watched “The Last Dance” docuseries and the NCAA Final between Gonzaga and Baylor. “Think about this. Almost more people watched on cable the documentary about the Michael Jordan era Chicago Bulls ‘The Last Dance’ than watched the NBA Finals with LeBron James in them in the most recent year.
“Think about that. People love basketball. 17 million people nearly watched Gonzaga agains Baylor, two different religious schools, Baylor’s baptist and Gonzaga is jesuit, that don’t have massive national fanbases. 10 million more people on average watched the NCAA championship game than watched any NBA Finals game last year between the Lakers and the Heat.
“If LeBron James and the Lakers were to get eliminated from the playoffs, this would be an unmitigated disaster for the NBA. LeBron’s already lost most of the NBA’s fanbase but the only reason people watch now is because of LeBron. If he weren’t in the Finals and if he lost earlier in the playoffs, lookout, this would be a mess. The NBA got woke and they are going broke.”