The NBA Finals without the Heat in it would be a ratings disaster.
Without the star power of LeBron James and the Miami Heat, the NBA is going to be in for a world of hurt when it comes to the ratings in the NBA Finals. Photo by Jeff Lewis
As great as the Spurs have been in recent history, they will not be able to generate high ratings if the Heat do not make it to the Finals. Photo by Jeff lewis
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
As the Heat and Pacers series is in it’s early stages, and many hardcore basketball fans are hoping for a Pacers upset, they should not count on that for two reasons.
The first reason is that the Heat are simply the better team. They are the defending champions, they have the best player in the league in LeBron James, and they have the best trio of players with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh surrounding him.
Can the Pacers make this series competitive? Sure. Can the Pacers pull off an upset? Well, from a purely basketball standpoint, yes. But for anybody believing in conspiracy theories (which is everybody on the internet), the Pacers do not have a chance because the NBA desperately needs the Heat in the NBA Finals.
The NBA is a star driven league, unlike the NFL. The NFL has created a true sense of parity, so it really does not matter who is playing. People will be glued to the TV, and it is to the point where it does not matter which teams make it to the Super Bowl. The casual fans, and even the non-sports fans, will still show up at Super Bowl parties.
Unfortunately for the NBA, they simply do not have it like that. They have to have certain teams, and certain stars, in the NBA Finals, or it will be a ratings disaster. At this point the only team that will move the ratings dial is the Heat, because a NBA Finals match up that matches the Pacers against either the Spurs or the Grizzlies may produce the worst NBA Finals ratings ever. Outside of hardcore basketball fans, nobody would watch that.
Think back to the 2005 NBA Finals, that matched the Spurs up against the Pistons. The Pistons had just won the NBA Finals the season before, and the Spurs had won the title the year before that. At that point the Spurs had already won two NBA Finals, so it would appear that a match up between those two teams would produce a highly rated series. But that was far from the case.
Game 3 of that series produced a 7.2 percent Nielsen rating, 32 percent lower than the average of the first three games of the NBA Finals the year before, which matched up the Pistons against the Lakers. The average for the 2005 NBA Finals was 11.5 million viewers, which is a 7.6 rating/14 share. The 2004 NBA Finals had a average of 17.9 million viewers, which is an 11.5 rating/20 share.
The 2003 NBA Finals, which matched up the Spurs against the Cavaliers, averaged 9.8 million viewers, which is a 6.5 rating/12 share. The Cavs had James, but at that stage of his career he did not have the star power to carry the Finals.
Since 1976, the lowest rated NBA Finals series was in 2003. The 2005 NBA Finals was the fourth lowest rated. The past three seasons, with the Lakers vs. the Celtics in 2010, and the Heat the past two seasons, the ratings have been in the double digits, but if the Heat do not make it this year, the ratings will sink into the single digits, and possibly be the lowest rated ever.
So for anybody that is into the conspiracy theory that the NBA is fixed, do not expect the Pacers to get any breaks from the referees. The only way that the masses will believe that the NBA is not fixed is if the Pacers actually won the series, even though the Heat are clearly the better team.
With or without help from the referees, the Heat should win this series, but the Pacers are good enough to make this interesting. And if these games are not called one sided towards the Heat, the Pacers might pull an upset. Hardcore basketball fans would love that, but the masses, and the NBA, surely would not.