Enjoying the NBA Post Season so far? Well, you may be in the minority. Despite historic overtime games, shocking injuries, The Warriors slaying The Rockets in a thrilling six game series, and the quest to crown a new king in the East. Ratings are down across all media... Why? The King is at home. Love him or hate him, LeBron James is the biggest star the NBA has, and a powerful draw for casual fans.
“Austin Karp of the Sports Business Journal reported this week that the NBA Playoff ratings are down 18% after the second weekend of games across TNT, ABC, ESPN and NBA TV. The most obvious reason for this drop in television viewership is the lack of LeBron James and the endless storylines that surround the King. With James and his Los Angeles Lakers on the sidelines, the first round has not inspired the casual sports fan to tune in as of yet…”
It’s not just the playoffs. During the regular season James taking his talents to LaLa Land, “Caused Fox Sports Ohio ratings to drop 58 percent,” wrote John Ourand and John Lombardo of Sports Business Journal. “Conversely, James’ new team, the Los Angeles Lakers, posted a 31 percent ratings increase on Spectrum SportsNet — the team’s highest since 2013.”
The real problem isn’t LeBron or The Lakers, it’s identity. The NBA’s current generation of stars are the most athletic of all time, but in terms of showmanship they are a far cry from Allen Iverson, dripping swag, Jordan’s ice cold “Stop Me” arrogance, Yao Ming’s freakish once in a life time appeal, and Shaq Diesel’s over the top foolery that still makes he and Charles Barkley must-watch on their TNT studio shows. Did former Commissioner Stern disrupt this with his dress code policy or did his attempt to expand the association white wash and limit the personality future athletes could show? Maybe in this Politically Correct era, athletes are content to use their twitter fingers rather than throw elbows like “Bad Boy” Dennis Rodman.
Kobe Bryant once called his teammates “Soft like Charmin” and maybe old school hoops fans feel the same way. Perhaps the casual fan can’t get behind Golden State’s finesse ball or would be mega stars like Ben Simmons because of this very reason. They don’t recognize the killer instinct or ruthless aggression displayed by past stars. Time will tell how the NBA moves on after LeBron, but for now they can still hold out hope for a Lakers Vs. Warriors playoff game that will have the entire world glued to their screens.