Matchup Made In Heaven

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There is a lot of chatter regarding the “bad” pairing in the NBA Finals, with many noting the obvious, and painful absence of the Lebron James-led Los Angeles Lakers, super team A) Brooklyn Nets; and super team B-level squads like The Los Angeles Clippers. Added, vacancy of some of the biggest solo stars Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors, Damian Lillard, and the Portland Trailblazers and Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks not appearing deep in the playoffs, or in Steph’s case, not at all.

The 2021 NBA Finals showcases three bona fide superstars, and a few fellows on the cusp of stardom, so why are folks so discouraged? For starters, Phoenix, AZ, and Milwaukee, WI are both small-market NBA teams. These are not necessarily small towns, but relative to the NBA, smaller market clubs; and secondly – neither town is prime bandwagon territory.

To fully understand the support that the likes of L.A. (either L.A. team), Boston, Brooklyn, and Golden State receive, you must understand that many of these fans neither live in these areas nor are “life-long” fans. The bandwagon fan is very prevalent in big market towns. They fluctuate in and out, whereas fans of the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks will likely stay about the same until one of them wins, and then they, like other small-market teams start to grow their fan base from outside parties. Example: Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs.

The 2021 Championship matchup on its surface, on paper, is star-studded. On the Phoenix side of the ball, we have All-world point guard, Chris Paul, also known as “The Point God.” The young sensation and extraordinarily talented, Devin Booker. An up-and-coming Deandre Ayton has all the makings of a dominant big man for years to come. Milwaukee features the 2x NBA MVP in Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holliday, and Khris Middleton.

The court is full of stars, and above-average role/bench players. Is this enough to dig the NBA out of the rating hole that started to take shape last year, during the bubble? This matchup is plenty to get NBA purists to tune in, and maybe the novice. The casual, on-the-fence fan is the real issue, right? I am not entirely sure on that just yet, but way-too-early, premature data (one game) shows the issue started with the bubble, not with unpopular teams in this year’s Finals. Some may be contributed to the bubble; some may also be chalked up to the social justice scene in the NBA. * Nonetheless, the National Basketball Association saw a bigger drop in TV ratings during the pandemic than any other major sport aside from the NHL. The NHL saw a 63% decrease year over year in viewership, while the NBA a 54% decrease in tv ratings.

NBA Finals10 million8.8 million4 million8.5 million
MLB World Series14.4 million13.9 million9.67 millionN/A
NHL Stanley Cup3 million2.8 million1.06 million0.9 million
NFL Super Bowl103.4 million98.5 million101.3 million91.6 million

Plot twist! NBA Finals ratings are UP year over year, A LOT! Granted, we are only 1 game in, but this has legs. Here is why: a lot of people have grown tired of the Lebron James, Steph Curry show, and are excited to see two smaller market teams compete. Also, Devin Booker is as marketable as they come. Young, handsome, talented stud dating a Kardashian and scoring at will. Head of the Players Union, Chris Paul is either loved or hated. There is not much in between, but deep down everyone knows he deserves it. Giannis, the noble, humble, extremely likable Greek King – how do you root against this guy?

To summarize, there are so many people that are not Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns fans, its attracted more viewers. If that makes sense. If there is a real cause for concern with ratings, I would think it sits on the shoulders of the NHL, but that is for another time. The NBA is developing new competitive teams and stars, which is right on queue as Lebron James and some of his colleagues begin to age, and eventually hand the league off to the young guns.

*Measured 2019 – 2020 viewership decrease.

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