LeBron James may one day be regarded as the greatest player of all time, but even though he rose to power at the height of the digital media age, viewers do not tune in to watch James nearly as obsessively as they did for some of his predecessors.
With James and the Heat heading to their third straight NBA Finals, this time against Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs, we took a look at the highest-rated finals TV broadcasts in NBA history. Despite James’ popularity, he is nowhere near the top of the list. In fact, he is not even in the top 25.
The highest-rated NBA Finals James took part in was his 2011 loss to the Mavericks. That series drew a 10.2 rating, the 26th-highest audience in finals history.
This does not mean James is less popular than Michael Jordan, Larry Bird or Magic Johnson, however. In James’ era, ESPN and TNT have had to compete with the Internet and video games, two mediums that were no competition with cable — much less broadcast — television when Jordan retired (for a second time) in 1998. The NBA has not suffered any decrease in popularity, either, as new forms of following the sport have helped it grow globally.
Still, with all the talk lately about relocating teams to bigger markets, it is interesting to see how many supposedly “small” market teams viewers flocked to their TVs to watch.