The Play-In Tournament game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors, televised exclusively on ESPN, tallied 5,618,000 viewers and a peak audience of 6,149,000 viewers. These numbers add up to being the most-watched NBA broadcast on ESPN since the 2019 Western Conference Finals.
Viewership of this Play-In Tournament game was also up 190% from the 2020 iteration of the event, which was a single game between the Portland Trail Blazers and Memphis Grizzlies. In addition, the first game of the night — Grizzlies vs. San Antonio Spurs — reached just 2,293,000 viewers.
Wednesday night’s instant classic was the second-most watched game of the 2020-21 season across all networks, with the No. 1 honor belonging to the Lakers and the Dallas Mavericks on Christmas Day. Lakers-Warriors also won the night across all networks in various demographics.
This is great news for the NBA, who now has something to point to as evidence for the success of the Play-In Tournament. Breaking viewership records for a game that is not technically registered as a playoff game means the league was successful in generating interest.
They were also fortunate to have such a highly contested matchup between two very large fanbases, with a game featuring two of the game’s biggest stars in LeBron James and Stephen Curry. Given that the game was not technically an elimination game, it makes these numbers even more impressive.
The Warriors being eliminated in the final round of the Play-In Tournament does hurt the NBA’s potential for ratings in the first round, but they’ll still have plenty of intriguing opening matchups. The Lakers and Phoenix Suns will generate viewers, and the same goes for Brooklyn Nets-Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks-Miami Heat, and L.A. Clippers-Dallas Mavericks.
James not receiving suspension for violation of Health and Safety protocols
James was informed by the NBA that he was in violation of the league’s health and safety protocols when he attended a public event with Michael B. Jordan and Drake. Everyone in attendance was required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test, which could be why James will not be suspended.
The Lakers star will be available for Game 1 against the Suns, even if there will be some controversy around him for not receiving any punishment by the league.
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