It would be hard for anybody to argue that LeBron James is one of the most famous athletes in the world. In the NBA, James is box-office.
Before this season, the three-time NBA champion was in the Finals for eight straight years. The worldwide audience came to expect him to be there every single year.
With all the aforementioned, you might be surprised to learn that’s not how LeBron James destroyed television ratings this season.
LeBron James is one of the most gifted athletic basketball players in the entire history of the NBA.
That’s not to say he’s better than Michael Jordan; because he isn’t, but his 6’9” 240 pound frame bully-balling his way to the basket with monstrous jams is one of the most unique things we’ve ever experienced. James will never come close to winning as many achievements as Jordan has. Jordan’s defense was incomparable as a 6’6” guard. It’s just a simple fact.
When James left the Miami Heat after four consecutive Finals appearances and two championships; he decided to return home to Cleveland where he shocked the 73-9 regular season record Golden State Warriors to win his third title there.
And then it was time for James to leave again so he jumped ship to Los Angeles to finish his career with the Lakers – signing a four-year deal, which will make him 37-years-old at the time of his retirement.
That’s the real reason why James killed television ratings. No, not his near eminent retirement, it’s that his move from the east coast to the west to play for the Lakers is what lopsided the ratings.
Appearing on NBC’s “Today” show on Tuesday, Silver admitted, “Face it, LeBron is one of the biggest stars in the world, and he also played in the East. A lot of our games are in the West, and it’s late at night. And I recognize most people choose to go to sleep at a reasonable time. And so, from a rating standpoint, not having LeBron in the playoffs, not having him in the East, has clearly impacted ratings.”
Is it really that surprising?
James has been a dominant force in the east since he entered the league and the eight straight Finals appearances justify that.
But when he fled the east; it was anybody’s Finals to chase in the east. The Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, Indiana Pacers, and Toronto Raptors all became instant contenders once LeBron James left the coast.
But it isn’t just that. It also has to do with the three hour time difference between est and pst.
Silver added, “And so if your West Coast games start at 10:30 at night in the East, you’re invariably going to lose a lot of viewers around 11, 11:30. I mean, you can just chart it. You see how many television households turn off around 11:15, 11:30 at night, just because people have to get up for work in the morning. I mean, it is something we can address. We’re talking about it. I mean, it would obviously be less convenient to those fans on the West Coast if we played even earlier. I mean, just think about people getting to those arenas after work if you start a game at 6 p.m. local time in the West. It’s not the most convenient thing. It’s not as convenient for a television watcher on the West coast, either. But when you look at the league from a national standpoint, it may make sense to play a little bit earlier in the West.”
The fact remains that west coasters are at work during early east coast games and east coasters are asleep during late west coast games.
So, if all the biggest box-office NBA talent including James, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Paul George, Russell Westbrook and James Harden are all in the western conference then you have a serious problem. To be fair, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Kyrie Irving and Kawhi Leonard are still in the east; for now. Irving and Leonard might be willing to travel west this summer too because they’re both unrestricted free agents.
The NBA will have a much more serious problem on their hands if that happens because the east will be the weakest we’ve ever seen it in NBA history.