NBA Ratings Are Surging Without LeBron’s Social Justice Pandering

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The NBA drew its highest opening weekend playoff ratings in more than a decade. Last weekend, the NBA averaged 4 million viewers across TNT, ESPN and ABC.

It turns out that when a league stops preaching politics and focusing on one single player, LeBron James, people choose to watch basketball.

That’s not surprising to OutKick readers. We informed the NBA the day after the Lakers were eliminated from playoff contention that the playoffs would thrive without LeBron involved.

This postseason without him is the first positive viewership story for the NBA in about four years.

As big of a star as LeBron is, he has become a net negative for the NBA. LeBron represents the social divide in the country.

He’s divisive: fans either love him or hate him. And as the years have gone by, those who disapprove of LeBron no longer simply root against him, as they did Michael Jordan. They have stopped watching him entirely.

Playoff LeBron also sucks the attention away from other teams, players and series. Even in the matchups that don’t involve LeBron, broadcasters still fawn over him before, during, and after the game. It’s all LeBron, all the time.

The conversation around him isn’t fun anymore. It’s less about the game than it is about his post-game remarks, his legacy, his attitude and speculation about which teammates he might trade in the offseason. LeBron has taken attention away from the NBA’s on-court product.

Without the focus on LeBron this postseason, the storylines have pivoted back to the games, outcomes and play — all of which have been exciting thus far. Fans have obviously approved.

Now that LeBron isn’t hogging up the marquee time slots, the NBA has been able to showcase younger stars, like Ja Morant, Donovan Mitchell, Anthony Edwards and Jayson Tatum.

LeBron is 37, he’s past his prime both on the court and as a TV draw. Of the 25 most-watched games during the regular season, only six involved LeBron. And keep in mind, that’s partly because the NBA gave the Lakers the best windows in primetime and on Christmas. By contrast, games with Steph Curry claimed 13 spots in the top 25.

The NBA and its fans don’t miss LeBron James. Neither does the half of the country that he spent the past few years calling racist.

This is called LeBron fatigue. People are tired of him.

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack is a writer for OutKick where he reports and analyzes the latest media topics as well as trending sports, cultural and political stories.

Burack has become a prominent voice in media and has been featured on several shows across OutKick and industry related podcast and radio stations.

Previously, Burack was a writer at The Big Lead where he covered similar topics. He also hosted an eponymous podcast where he interviewed several personalities such as Joe Tessitore, and Adam Schefter.


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    • LeBron will find ways throughout the playoffs to keep his name front and center. His narcissism is too strong NOT to find a way to be the lead story and make it about himself, be it a tweet or showing up courtside so he can be on TV and get interviewed

  1. But even still, “only” 4 million viewers for the NBA playoffs is nothing to brag about. Years ago, the audience was up in the teens, and not just for the championship round either. But when LeBron becomes the focus, I think you’re right, in that it takes away coverage for other players and teams. And even when LeBron’s team loses, the media narrative isn’t so much what the opposing team did to win but rather the failure of LeBron’s team in losing. No matter what, the sports media puts the focus on him.

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