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NBA Finals Game 3 between Lakers-Heat draws lowest TV ratings ever

Vincent Frank
NBA TV ratings
Aug 1, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, USA; The NBA Whole New Game logo is seen before the start of a game between the LA Clippers and the New Orleans Pelicans at HP Field House at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on August 01, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. Mandatory Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

It’s becoming a concerning and widespread trend around the Association. Since the NBA season resumed at Walt Disney World in Orlando in late July, interest in the product just has not been there.

Game 1 of the 2020 NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat on Wednesday drew the smallest ratings in NBA Finals history with just 7.41 million viewers on ABC. The previous low was 8.06 million viewers for Game 3 of the 2003 NBA Finals between the Nets and Spurs.

We now have more information on NBA ratings as LeBron James looks to lead his Lakers to their first title in a decade. It’s not good.

NBA Finals Game 3 draws lowest TV ratings ever

Miami’s win over the Lakers in Sunday evening saw a record low 5.94 million viewers tune in. That’s almost half the amount of viewers that tuned in for NFL’s “Sunday Night Football” matchup between the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers, a broadcast that was aired by the rival NBC and also saw a downtick from last week.

However, there’s an important note that must be made here. This matchup represented the first time that an NBA Finals game has gone up directly against Sunday NFL football. That’s due to the 2019-20 NBA season being suspended for over five months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even then, these are some alarming ratings numbers for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Co.

NBA ratings have been on the downswing all season

  • We noted last week that the two conference finals series saw NBA ratings decrease by 35% from a season ago. While last year’s NBA Conference Finals pitted the Golden State Warriors against the Portland Trail Blazers out west and the Milwaukee Bucks taking on the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference, this year has included the second-largest media market in that of the Lakers. Again, that has to be troublesome for the NBA.
  • It was just last month that the Los Angeles Lakers took on the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Semifinals. A game pitting three former MVP’s in that of Kings James, Russell Westbrook and James Harden against one another drew just 2.5 million viewers. The game went up directly against the NFL’s opening “Thursday Night Football” tilt between the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans, which drew 20.5 million viewers.

Related: NBA suspends action to support Black Lives Matter

What to make of the NBA ratings decrease?

By now, it’s well known that the 2019-20 NBA season resumed with the backdrop of national anthem protests following the murder of George Floyd by a then-Minneapolis police officer back in May. Obviously, said protests are politically divisive in nature. We’ve seen it since Colin Kaepernick started the national anthem protests back in 2016.

As for the broader NBA world, it has been more outspoken than any other professional sports when it comes to the societal issues of the day. That includes taking on embattled President Donald Trump at nearly every turn.

Whether these protests have played a role in the NBA ratings decreasing big time this season remains to be seen. We’ll likely never have a concrete answer on that front.