The NBA has taken over in the past decade as one of the most popular sports leagues in the world. With players hailing from 40 different countries at the start of the current season, it’s no surprise that the sport has enjoyed the growth it has during that time.
One of the best ways of gauging a league’s popularity is through television ratings: while fans may not be able to shell out to see a playoff game in person, it’s easier than ever to tune in from home, giving an excellent estimate of just how popular the sport is based on viewership.
The first days of games during the first round of the playoffs averaged more than four million viewers on TV, an excellent number for that early in the championship season, especially without any marquee rivalry matchups on tap yet. The divisional rivalry matchup between the Golden State Warriors and the Sacramento Kings went a long way to boosting those numbers, as the series went to seven games and featured stunning performances from some of the best players in the sport.
The last time viewership of the first round of the playoffs hit that lofty mark was in 2011, when LeBron James’ first season with the super team Miami Heat (and Lakers’ legend Kobe Bryant’s pursuit of a third straight championship for the second time in his career) drove viewers to their television sets in droves.
One matchup that’s still on the table for the NBA Finals has a good chance of smashing the current viewership records should it come to pass: the Los Angeles Lakers vs the Boston Celtics. If we see an LA vs Boston championship you can bet TV ratings will most certainly be up with the history of this classic rivalry. Boston fans can check out a Caesars Massachusetts promo code as we are sure to see a lot of action on the great rivalry, whether because it actually happens or because fans bet that it will happen ahead of time.
The two teams have squared off in the finals an NBA-record 12 times, with Boston cleaning up in the vast majority of those series, winning nine of them (eight of which came during the career of NBA Hall of Famer and all-time legend of the game Bill Russell). The rivalry has cooled off significantly since then, but it’ll always be heated thanks to the two teams’ position as the premier franchises in the sport: both Boston and Los Angeles are tied with a league-record 17 NBA Championships, so history is on the line every time they meet in the postseason: it’s no wonder that it’s one of the matchups that pulls in a plethora of viewers.
They also have some of the strongest and most-devoted fan bases in the sport (no surprise given their long standing history of success), which helps to drive viewership. Los Angeles’ second round matchup with the Golden State Warriors saw the league nearly double its success (based on average viewership), with more than seven million people tuning in to watch each game. Los Angeles has another weapon, the aforementioned James, who holds sway over more fans himself than most franchises do owing to his position as one of the greatest players in NBA history: seeing him go against the Warriors in the playoffs yet again was a ratings slam dunk for the league.
The respective conference finals series’ feature a pair of powerhouses (Los Angeles and Boston) against the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat. Miami has always had an incredibly devoted fanbase, while the Nuggets aren’t quite on the same level as the other three teams. It’ll be fascinating to see how viewership continues to trend as the playoffs wear on and the Finals matchup is decided.