By Andrew Gilstrap
After Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, I began envisioning how I’d write this post and claim that the San Antonio Spurs versus the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals would draw impressive television ratings. It was going to be the star-studded Heat versus the venerable, seemingly unbeatable Spurs. Well, now it’s only half that story, and I see that TV ratings may be even bigger than I imagined back then. I also seemed to overlook the fact the Spurs historically aren’t exactly TV ratings darlings.
The NBA Finals pits the Oklahoma City Thunder vs. the Miami Heat. You’ll see this series get billed often as Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James — two of the biggest superstars the league has. The Heat barely got to this point, needing seven games to dispatch the Boston Celtics. The Thunder-Spurs series featured two titans of the league, and most fans recognized this, yet the Heat-Celtics series constantly drew higher ratings, and really good ones at that: Game 6 matched a cable record for an NBA playoff game, and Game 7 surpassed that. The Thunder and Spurs drew solid TV numbers, but even more people, for whatever reason, tuned in to watch a partially depleted Miami squad take on the aging Celtics.
With ratings at a healthy clip this postseason — even despite this lockout-shortened season — and multiple superstars on both remaining teams, this Finals should have no trouble keeping people glued to their TV screens. This has the makings of a can’t-miss showdown. It seems as if you took a poll across the country asking for everybody’s second-favorite NBA team, the Thunder would be the most popular answer. People seem to be drawn to their youth, teamwork and organically assembled talent. And you can bet there will be no shortage of people rooting for them to upend LeBron. I predict this series will have at least two games that draw more than 20 million viewers.
I’m not going to make a prediction about who wins and how many games the Finals will take. It really seems up in the air to me. I will say that I wouldn’t mind seeing LeBron win his first championship just so he can get that monkey off his back and so we can move past the inane, sometimes-nasty ill wishes that people have cast upon him since he joined the Heat. And, even if he does win it all, the Thunder will be around for years to come and will have plenty more chances to get theirs too.