NBA television ratings are storming back from a double-digit deficit late in the fourth quarter. Numbers from the first round are up, and they are sure to put a smile on the faces in New York City and Secaucus, New Jersey.
The league averaged 3.06 million viewers across ESPN, ABC, and TNT during the first round of the playoffs. That is the highest average mark in three years and represents a 46% increase from the same time in last year’s COVID-induced Orlando bubble. The numbers are a 3% increase going back to the last “normal” year in 2019.
There was just one Game 7 in the entire first round, but it paid off big time in the tracking data. Sunday’s series finale between the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers in Staples Center was the most-watched game of the first round.
The dominant closeout performance by Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers averaged 5.49 million viewers on ABC. Ratings jumped 43%, and viewership went up 62% from ABC’s first-round Game 7 last year. A Nuggets victory over the Jazz on a Tuesday night in September.
TNT set a new mark for 2021 along the way. Thursday’s Game 6 battle between the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers averaged 4.5 million viewers on TNT — the network’s largest opening round audience since 2018. The last season Lebron James spent in Cleveland brought in big ratings. Game 4 between the Cavaliers and Indiana Pacers that year posted 6.07 million viewers.
Looking ahead to the first couple of second-round games and it’s more good news for the NBA compared to last season. Sunday’s Game 1 matchup between the Atlanta Hawks and Philadelphia 76ers in the second round averaged 3.39 million viewers on ABC, up 102% from Celtics-Raptors on ESPN in a similar window but down 19% from Celtics-Bucks on ABC in 2019.
Russ Heltman is a daily news writer for BSM. He is the morning host and producer for 89.3 WMKV in Cincinnati, OH. He also works in gameday communications for FC Cincinnati and additionally contributes to the AllBengals blog for Sports Illustrated. Russ can be found on Twitter @RussHeltman11 or you can reach him by email at Heltmandm@yahoo.com.
Stephen Nelson: Joining Dodgers Booth ‘Different Challenge Than I’ve Ever Had’
“If you grew up a fan of sports in Southern California, you had Vin Scully…Jaime Jarrin…Chick Hearn…Ralph Lawler…Every single night you could listen and watch broadcasting greatness.”
MLB Network Intentional Talk co-host Stephen Nelson is joining the Los Angeles Dodgers television booth, and is slated to call at least 50 games for the franchise on Spectrum SportsNet LA in 2023.
Nelson will work games when lead play-by-play announcer Joe Davis is on assignment for national games as the lead announcer for MLB on FOX and is the network’s number two NFL announcer.
In an interview with Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Nelson was cognizant of “the weight and responsibility” that comes with working for the Dodgers.
“It’s a different challenge than I’ve ever had,” Nelson said. “If you grew up a fan of sports in Southern California, you had Vin Scully, you had Jaime (Jarrín), had Chick Hearn or you’re listening to Ralph Lawler on the Clippers. Every single night you could listen and watch broadcasting greatness … even though they weren’t teaching a class directly, I still went to their school.”
The 33-year-old Nelson will be the only Asian American play-by-play broadcaster working Major League Baseball, and he’s proud of that distinction.
“It means everything to me,” Nelson said. “To be in a position where I can help further pave the way for the next wave of AAPI broadcasters or minority broadcasters — because if you look around the sport, and sports in general, it’s pretty embarrassing, to be frank. That’s something that I do not approach lightly at all. It’s a massive responsibility.”
In 2022, Nelson worked as a play-by-play announcer for AppleTV+’s Friday Night Baseball franchise, mostly on the outlet’s “West” games, alongside Hunter Pence, Katie Nolan, and Heidi Watney.
Greg Olsen Can Leave FOX For Another Network
“When Tom Brady is ready, that chair is his.”
Now that Tom Brady’s playing career is officially over, plenty of people are talking about what comes next. He has a contract from FOX on the table that will put him in the network’s top NFL booth when he is ready. What that means for Greg Olsen remains unclear.
Olsen has won plenty of fans this season. Last week, he told ESPN 1000 that he is a “big boy” and he “knew what he signed up for” when he was elevated to the top slot at the network alongside Kevin Burkhardt. When Tom Brady is ready, that chair is his.
Plenty have speculated that FOX could go with a three-man booth. That way the network gets the benefits of both Brady’s star power and Olsen’s ability to dissect a game.
There is another option for Greg Olsen though according to Andrew Marchand. The New York Post writer reports that Olsen can opt out of his contract at FOX and join another network if he is offered a job.
Olsen cannot take just anything. He can only pursue a job in another network’s top booth if offered. That spot is locked up for every network with an NFL TV deal currently, but it won’t be forever and Greg Olsen has proven his worth to the broadcasting world this season.
“He could end up being this generation’s Cris Collinsworth, having a long, lucrative career, despite not having played quarterback or for the Cowboys or in New York,’ Marchand writes. “People love an underdog — especially if the person delivers.”
While Tom Brady will eventually be Kevin Burkhardt’s partner, it will not happen on February 12th. FOX is sticking with Burkhardt and Olsen to call Super Bowl LVII.
Molly Qerim: Stephen A. Smith and I Have Never Had a Mike and the Mad Dog-Style Fight
“We’re definitely annoyed at each other for times. There were times when we were very, very annoyed.”
Mike and the Mad Dog were celebrated on First Take Wednesday morning for their legendary careers. One topic that came up was their legendary fights, with host Molly Qerim saying — luckily — she’s never had that issue arise with Stephen A. Smith.
Nearing the conclusion of the episode, Qerim pointed out how ridiculous some of the arguments between Mike Francesa and Chris “Mad Dog” Russo became, bringing up the legendary discussion about the restrooms at Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium.
“You guys would debate everything, even bathrooms,” Qerim said. “You really debated bathrooms.”
Francesa and Russo then discussed how the bathroom discussion led to months of silence, where they did not speak to each other outside of the show for more than five months, before Francesa’s wife invited Russo to their wedding, which eventually squashed the beef.
“Think about it. If you two (Smith and Qerim) did not get along, and for five months and you walked in here and didn’t talk to each other either before, during or after (the show),” Russo said. “That’s hard to pull off.”
“We never did that,” replied Qerim. “We’re definitely annoyed at each other at times. There were times when we were very, very annoyed.”
Francesa asked Qerim and Smith if they’d ever had “a real fight” with both immediately responding no.
Smith did note — somewhat jokingly — that he had felt “very bruised” from time to time by Qerim.