NBA Finals Game 7 Draws 2nd Largest TV Audience in 15 Years

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJune 21, 2013

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 20:  Dwyane Wade #3 and LeBron James #6 celebrate after defeating the San Antonio Spurs 95-88 to win Game Seven of the 2013 NBA Finals at AmericanAirlines Arena on June 20, 2013 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

LeBron James may be one of the more polarizing figures in all of professional sports, but a ton of people sure tuned in to watch the Miami Heat forward win his second NBA championship.

According to a report from Sports Media Watch, ABC's affiliate ratings for Thursday night's Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals are huge. The game drew 26.3 million viewers on average for the telecast and a 15.3 final rating, a measurement of the percentage of households with televisions watching the game.

The Miami Heat defeated the San Antonio Spurs, 95-88, in Game 7 to take their second straight NBA championship.

For outgoing NBA commissioner David Stern, that massive number is nothing short of a boon for his league. The rating was the second highest since Michael Jordan rose over Byron Russell in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, trailing only Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics. 

Game 7 of the Boston-Los Angeles series drew a monster average of 35.9 million viewers and a 22.8 final rating. That number is even higher than the peak 15-minute window of Heat-Spurs, which hit its apex from 11:30-11:45 ET, when 34.2 million viewers were watching as James helped close out San Antonio. 

Overall, the ratings contrast is understandable. The Miami Big Three is arguably the world's biggest basketball draw at this point, but Celtics-Lakers brings the type of historical connotations that will bring even the most casual eyeballs. Add that to San Antonio being one of the league's smallest markets, and the ratings were nothing short of a win for the Association—especially after the way they started.

The first three games of the series drew fewer than 15 million viewers and worse than a 9.0 final rating. But as the series wore on, the stakes went higher and the level of basketball hit arguably its greatest peak of a Finals in this decade, eyes became glued to television sets. 

Three of the final four games in the series found that coveted double-digit final rating, as Miami's vaunted "Big Three" took on the original vestiges of that moniker in San Antonio. Tim Duncan's vintage performances, LeBron James' rapid ascent up the all-time ladder and countless other storylines adorned this series. As the games drew closer and closer—especially Games 6 and 7—fans came flocking to their sets in droves. 

What's more, Thursday night's rating is yet another piece of evidence that the Heat's Big Three has been good for the NBA—at least ratings-wise. Miami now has three of the 10 most-watched NBA games since 1998, including two of the top three (2011 NBA Finals Game 6 is in third place).

That being said, the massive ratings also prove the conspiracy theorists wrong who said no one would watch the Spurs play—even against Miami. The theory went that San Antonio was too small of a market, that its past NBA Finals ratings—admittedly not great—would wind up hurting the numbers once again.

The numbers are in, and the facts are clear: People respond to great basketball. The Spurs and Heat gave fans that on seven different occasions, giving the best representation of everything the NBA encompasses. It's a bit comforting that the rest of the nation got to see it as well.

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