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Record ratings likely on tap for NBA Finals

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For those who missed it, the Golden State Warriors and the Oklahoma City Thunder just completed an NBA playoff series for the ages. There was one highlight after another.

TNT earned their highest rating for any program ever as the Warriors completed a rare comeback from a three-games-to-one deficit. Two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry is a big reason for the interest.

Curry has the talent to turn curiosity into television viewers. When combined with an almost equally deadly shooter in Klay Thompson and an entertaining, fast-paced offense, the Warriors are a product that can, and does, sell.

NBA television ratings were actually down through December. Among the litany of reasons for the decline was going against the World Series despite baseball’s cratering ratings for its signature event.

Another factor offered was competition against the Republican presidential debates. While it is true Donald Trump helped generate huge ratings for these made-for-tv events, they occupied only one night per month.

A better reason is the country had not fully absorbed what Curry and the Warriors were doing. Florida Politics’ Mitch Perry, Warriors’ fan extraordinaire, spreads the word at the slightest opening. Perhaps Perry gets some credit for the hoops awakening.

At the risk of generating criticism for comparing Curry with Trump, let us make it clear Curry and his entire team helped boost television ratings. Starting off a season with a 24-game winning streak has a way of eventually drawing attention. Trump added viewers to the debates almost single-handed.

The second half of the NBA season on television was a different story. With the record-setting Warriors featured on as many national games as possible, ABC saw a nine percent ratings jump, while ESPN was up 10 percent, NBA TV 19 percent and TNT one percent.

With the NBA Finals set to begin on Thursday, the potential for record-shattering ratings exists. Four-time league MVP LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers could not be a better matchup for viewers.

It is a re-match from last season when the Warriors defeated the depleted (Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love were injured) Cavaliers, but it took them six games. Despite the missing firepower, television ratings were the highest for the finals since 1998, the last of the Chicago Bulls’ six championships.

Enormous story lines exist to attract viewers. Stephen vs. LeBron is the marquee matchup. The Warriors have won more games this season than any other team in history. Their coach, Steve Kerr, is trying to become the first ever to win championships in his first two years as a head coach.

Cleveland is trying to win that city’s first championship of any kind since the Browns won the 1964 NFL Championship (before there was a Super Bowl). If last year’s finals could earn such high ratings with one of the teams crippled, this year’s edition should produce enough interest to make this almost must-see for sports fans.

Yes, even in other Florida markets outside of Orlando and Miami.  Prepare to be entertained.


Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at

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