Adam Silver Reportedly Surprised About Low NBA Finals Ratings

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On Thursday, Marc Berman of the New York Post published a story about the NBA Finals ratings. While Game 4 rose to 7.54 million viewers, the highest so far in the series, this is still down 42.7 percent from the 13.16 million viewers that watched Game 4 between the Raptors and Warriors in 2019. In 2020, the first three games of the NBA Finals broke records for low viewership, despite featuring LeBron James and the Lakers.

Berman cites sources saying that NBA commissioner Adam Silver is surprised:

“According to sources, commissioner Adam Silver still is surprised at the low audience with LeBron James chasing his fourth title at age 35. Silver is aiming for next year’s NBA Finals to not compete in the crowded sports month of October. Silver has made general comments that could signal a belief the emphasis on Black Lives Matter has resulted in a ratings fall.”

We’ve been over this issue a number of times. As I wrote earlier this week, it’s true that the NBA is out of season, other out-of-season sports like hockey and horse racing are down a lot too, and the game experience is weird with no fans in the stands. The NBA is competing against some football games and MLB playoffs, when it normally has national sports fans’ attention to themselves. There’s also an election and pandemic going on drawing a lot of attention to news.

On the other hand, the league’s biggest star, LeBron James, and its sexiest franchise, the Los Angeles Lakers, set one all-time low after another after another for NBA Finals viewership.

It’s therefore not surprising that Adam Silver is surprised. If you had told him that LeBron and the Lakers would be in the Finals before the bubble started, my guess is that he would have conservatively estimated that the series would average over 10 million viewers per game.

When asked by Rachel Nichols if social justice messaging would continue from the NBA going forward, Silver answered:

“We’re completely committed to standing for social justice and racial equality and that’s been the case going back decades. It’s part of the DNA of this league. How it gets manifested is something we’re gonna have to sit down with the players and discuss for next season. I would say, in terms of the messages you see on the court and our jerseys, this was an extraordinary moment in time when we began these discussions with the players and what we all lived through this summer. My sense is there’ll be somewhat a return to normalcy, that those messages will largely be left to be delivered off the floor.

“And I understand those people who are saying ‘I’m on your side, but I want to watch a basketball game.’”

I do believe that this year’s unconventional season will be at least a short-term floor for the NBA. The season will return to having the Finals in the summer when people are used to watching it. Kevin Durant will play in the New York market, and with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson back, the Warriors should at least be in contention.

Written by Ryan Glasspiegel

Ryan Glasspiegel grew up in Connecticut, graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison, and lives in Chicago. Before OutKick, he wrote for Sports Illustrated and The Big Lead. He enjoys expensive bourbon and cheap beer.


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  1. Left years ago and I ain’t coming back. Little englo for my baller brethren. Surprised? The greatest commish in the history of sport caught a bit off guard? As the man Whitlock has stated Lebald has a legacy that no one will likely touch – I made my sport massively unpopular.

  2. Mr. Commish…
    I asked Green Day if they would serenade you and the guys as you leave the bubble, so…
    “Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road
    Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go
    So make the best of this test and don’t ask why
    It’s not a question, but a lesson learned in time
    It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right
    I hope you had the time of your life”

  3. Remember what LeBron said at the Cleveland championship parade?
    With about two hundred thousand fans gathered to hear his every word,
    James told the adoring parents and children:
    “I’m not just blowing smoke up Kyrie’s ass.”
    And now, he’s calling the nation’s VP a piece of sh*t.
    But hey, he can really play ball — so his sheep will worship the KING tonight.

  4. Wow. Adam, you really don’t get out much, do you?

    I don’t know if you are aware of this, but insulting your audience, calling them racists, insulting America while giving China a tongue-bath tends to drive away people who, up until recently, considered Sports a refuge from all that. You poisoned the well. You drove your audience away. They didn’t just leave, you ran them off.

    Oh, and here’s another thing: We aren’t coming back. I suggest you go ahead and start broadcasting exclusively in Mandarin and start waving around PLA flags. That’s evidently where you think your future is. G’bye!

  5. Lefties live in bubbles, of course they’d be surprised that their SJW garbage is not wanted. If they’re constantly told that the riots are a myth, what the fuck else are these LCDs going to think other than they’re promoting what the majority of Americans want to see and hear?

  6. It’ll be a ‘short-term floor’ in the sense that it can’t get any worse. So long as the Lebrona Virus is infecting the NBA, the ratings will stay in the garbage, and in the words of Mike Francesa, ‘you can take those words, print ’em, frame ’em, and hang ’em on the wall,’ because that’s a fact.

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