Curry and the Warriors are a Goldmine for the NBA

By Zaheer Clarke

Published on June 27, 2016

Whether you think the NBA is rigged, or it’s a contest between men with hot bodies flying through the air, exhibiting will and skill – as one girlfriend puts it – the NBA is a business and businesses maximise their returns.

NBA: Finals-Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors

The matchup between Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) in the 2016 NBA Finals has been a goldmine for the NBA.
(Photo credit: Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports)

The NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors, the second such finals in consecutive years has been good for the NBA. Forget the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio  Spurs dynasties of the 2000s with future Hall-of-Fame players and coaches like Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, Phil Jackson and Greg Popovich. Or the resurgence of another storied franchise in NBA history, the Boston Celtics under Doc Rivers with all-star players like Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors against the prodigal King LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers have set new rating/viewership records not seen since Michael Jordan’s last championship title in 1998.

“… look for Steph (Curry) and the Warriors to be marketed unlike any other Finals runner-up …”

This was not the first NBA Finals featuring a LeBron James team. Actually, LeBron has been to the NBA finals on seven occasions, with five such finals not involving the Golden State Warriors. Despite his seemingly annual trip to the finals, the ratings and viewership of finals involving the anointed king and “best player on the planet” hasn’t been a must watch for fans like it was for his predecessor Michael Jordan. However, in the past two finals, we have not seen such high series and single-game Finals viewership records since Michael Jordan’s epic contests and title winning games against Karl Malone and the Utah Jazz.

Table 1. The top-10 most watched NBA Finals series since 1991

Rank Year Winner/Runner-up

Average Viewership
(in millions)

1

1998 Bulls/Jazz

29.04

2

1993 Bulls/Suns

27.21

3

1997 Bulls/Jazz

25.59

4 1996 Bulls/Supersonics

24.86

5

1991 Bulls/Lakers

23.91

6

1992 Bulls/ Trailblazers

20.84

7

2016 Cavaliers/Warriors

20.28

8

1995 Rockets/Magic

20.08

9

2015 Warriors/Cavaliers

19.94

10

2001 Lakers/76ers

19.00

The 2015 Finals had an average of 19.94 million individuals in the US watching the games on each night and the 2016 Finals had an average of 20.28 million pairs of eyeballs. The deciding Game 7 in the 2016 Finals had 31.02 million viewers, the first time in 18 years that an NBA Finals game has cracked the 30 million viewership mark. Interestingly, this just concluded Game 7 was the third most watched NBA Finals game in 30 years. It only failed to supplant close out contests involving Michael Jordan teams in the 1993 and the 1998 NBA Finals.

Many will indicate that this resurgence in the NBA Finals viewership and increased business is the perfect storm. The NBA had its first new commissioner in 30 years, Adam Silver, who took over the office in 2014 after a 30-year reign of David Stern. Silver is considered by many as a business savant. Nevertheless, in his first finals in charge, the 2014 NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs, we saw on average only 15.54 million viewers, a big drop-off from the numbers we’ve seen these past two years.

average-viewership-lebron-finals

Others have pointed to the prodigal return of King James, which we have to admit it may be a contributing factor in the past two NBA Finals. However, the biggest show on any night in the NBA is the Golden State Warriors. From the earlier rounds, like the Western Conference Finals, between Golden State and Oklahoma City Thunder, the first game of that series set viewership records for the TV networks.

The common thread through all these ratings and viewership records is the Golden State Warriors. Their team brand of basketball – which San Antonio Spurs exhibited without this occult viewership – along with their record setting and basketball revolutionary shooting, often inspired by their guy-next-door leaders Steph Curry and Klay Thompson is a gravitating factor. Not to mention, their baby-faced light-skinned hue of their two stars. Believe it or not, race or race relations are also a factor. The Warriors total disregard for shot probability and their ability to make three-pointers at a historic rate has the average fan glued to their tellies in amazement. Similar to the amazement Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls left on many during their storied run.

Table 2. The top-5 most watched NBA Finals single-games since 1991

Rank

NBA Finals Game Single-Game Viewership

(in millions)

1

1998
Bulls/Jazz
6

35.89

2

1993
Bulls/Suns
6

32.10

3

2016
Cavaliers/Warriors
7

31.02

4

1998
Bulls/Jazz
5

30.60

5 2010
Lakers/Celtics
7

28.20

Yes, the Warriors broke the Bulls single-season wins record for the regular season and the combined regular season and the playoffs. Yes, for three nights over the series over 20 million viewers tuned in to watch the Warriors attempt to close out King James and the Cavaliers, another first for the NBA Finals since the Jordan-era. And by the way, this occult following is not restricted to this season, we saw it last season as well.

Though King James and the Cavaliers won the title this year, Steph Curry and Golden State Warriors are the ones returning the NBA to the popularity of the Jordan-era. They are the perfect goldmine for the NBA. If you think the NBA is rigged, or you like watching men with hot bodies fly through the air like one of my girlfriends alluded, look for Steph and the Warriors to be marketed unlike any other Finals runner-up, and look for them in the NBA Finals next season too.

 

ayesha-curry-tweet

Steph Curry’s wife, Ayesha Curry’s tweet after the Warriors lost Game 6, 115-101, to the Cleveland Cavaliers, which forced the series to a deciding Game 7.

 

Until next time …

© Zaheer Clarke

Zaheer E. Clarke is an award-winning freelance sportswriter whose articles have been published by ESPN Cricinfo, Western Mirror, The Jamaica Observer, Trinidad Express, Essentially Sports and others.

He can be reached at zaheer.clarke@gmail.com. Follow him on Facebook at Zaheer Facts, Lies & Statistics, or on Twitter at @zaheerclarke.

This blog article was also published in the Western Mirror on June 27, 2016.

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