NBA Ratings Continue Pre-Pandemic Nosedive

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NBA television ratings have been in the dumps since before the days of COVID-19, bottoming out when it set an all-time low for the Finals in 2020.

Well, things don’t appear to be any better these days, as relayed by Jon Lewis of SportsMedia Watch.

For starters, a game between the Lakers and Pelicans on TNT last week averaged a measly 920,000 viewers, down a whopping 35% from a Rockets-Bucks matchup on a comparable night in 2019. That Lakers-Pelicans game was also the least-watched Lakers game on ABC, ESPN or TNT since LeBron James signed on in 2018.

Granted, both James and star forward Anthony Davis were out with injuries, but these are still the Lakers, and those ratings are still better suited for Major League Soccer or even college lacrosse.

Plus, James and Davis played in the Finals last season, and ratings for the Finals were downright atrocious. And things have been equally as bad around the rest of the league.

“In other recent NBA action, ESPN drew a 0.7 rating (-26%) and 1.15 million viewers (-17%) for Clippers-Mavericks and a 0.6 (-41%) and 931,000 (-37%) for Bucks-Sixers last Wednesday,” Lewis wrote. “TNT the previous night had a 0.6 and 1.03 million for Jazz-Celtics and a 0.6 and 983,000 for Pelicans-Blazers. Preceding the aforementioned Lakers-Warriors game on March 15, ESPN drew a 0.7 (-35%) and 1.13 million (-36%) for Knicks-Nets. Finally, Clippers-Pelicans had a 0.6 (-34%) and 1.01 million (-24%) on ESPN March 14. All comparisons are to 2019.”

Overall, NBA playoff ratings were down 27% last season when compared to 2019, and down 40% compared to the year before that, as OutKick’s Bobby Burack wrote.

The first round of the playoffs were an extension of the declining ratings prior to the NBA hiatus in March. 

According to a report from Sports Business Daily in February, national television viewership for regular season games fell 12 percent compared to 2018-19. Again, those were the league’s pre-hiatus numbers.

“The NBA has growing concern. This goes beyond TV ratings,” an industry insider told last year. “The league does remain a popular brand overseas. But it has hit hard times among sports fans here (in the United States).”

Written by Sam Amico

Sam Amico spent 15 years covering the NBA for Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports and, along with a few other spots, and currently runs his own basketball website on the side,


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  1. My dad was a life long Lakers fan and passed that onto me. Used to love watching Lakers games with dad. But 3 years ago, I stopped watching the NBA altogether. It was bad enough that the league to a hard turn to the political left, but then LeFraud James joined the Lakers. I haven’t watched in 3 years and don’t miss it.

    LeFraud and the rest of the CCBL (Chinese Communist Basketball League) should move to China, so then they can bow down to their masters on a daily basis.

  2. Used to watch several NBA games a week. The NBA owners/players made it clear they don’t want me to watch. Didn’t watch a second last season and didn’t miss it at all. Nothing they could do to get me to come back, done with them for good.

  3. So only 1.3% of Biden voters are watching an NBA game on any given night (assuming no Trump voters are tuning in). Either the NBA numbers are far worse than anyone believes, or Biden’s total was far lower than the 81 million claimed.

  4. I’m 58. My dad started taking me to Sun’s games when I was 5. Moved to SLC about the time Jazz moved to Utah. My dad had Jazz season tickets for about 25 years. I followed Jazz closely and went to many games every year and watched most other games on tv. I haven’t seen a game for a few years now. And I never will again. Nothing about the NBA is even slightly interesting, especially since they decided they didn’t want me watching since I’m an educated white suburban professional. And I don’t miss it at all.

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