Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Bucks and Suns drew 9.6 million viewers on Saturday, down enormously from 2019’s Warriors-Raptors Game 5, which averaged 18.4 million viewers.
Remember, NBA media demanded last year that we discount the 2020 NBA Finals’ atrocious ratings because the matchup took place out of season and during a pandemic. So, as a nice guy, I’m honoring their requests and only comparing the 2021 Finals to 2019.
Here’s how the two Finals compare, via data from SportsMediaWatch:
- Game 1: 13.5 million
- Game 2: 14.1 million
- Game 3: 13.44 million
- Game 4: 13.2 million
- Game 5: 18.3 million
- Game 1: 8.6 million
- Game 2: 9.4 million
- Game 3: 9 million
- Game 4: 10.3 million
- Game 5 – 9.6 million
Tonight’s Game 6 will come well short of the 18 million viewers that Game 6 drew in 2019. It won’t come close. That said, if the Suns win, the NBA will get its first Finals Game 7 since 2016. And while a potential Buck-Suns Game 7 won’t sniff 2016’s 31 million, the additional game will help ABC and the NBA make extra money.
However, what is problematic is that Giannis Antetokounmpo’s star power doesn’t translate to viewership.
Antetokounmpo is 26-years-old and has been the best player in the NBA for the past several months. Win or lose this series, the Bucks will be a contender for the next decade. Between Antetokounmpo’s apparent lack of appeal and LeBron’s age, the NBA must find an individual star to usher it into the next era. For a league so reliant on star power, that’s priority No. 1.