It may not be the NBA Finals matchup that fans and advertisers were hoping for but the Miami Heat and the Denver Nuggets are the last two teams standing.
The 2023 NBA Finals will mark just the second time in the 13 years that LeBron James, Steph Curry, or both won’t be playing for an NBA Championship.
Instead, the spotlight will be shifted towards Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic and Heat’s Jimmy Butler.
Regardless of the outcome of the NBA Finals, the 2023 Playoffs has been a major success for the league. In fact, the 2023 NBA Playoffs will be the most-watched on ESPN platforms since 2012. This year’s postseason averaged 4.7 million viewers per game across the ABC/ESPN, TNT and NBA TV platforms, making it the most-watched playoffs in 11 years.
The Heat vs Celtic Game 7 averaged nearly 12 million viewers on Monday night, marking TNT’s most-watched Eastern Conference Finals ever.
While the 2023 NBA Playoffs have quietly become one of the most-watched editions, there are still doubts and skepticism over the lack of star power in the Finals, which could affect TV ratings.
The NBA 2023 Playoffs Viewership
Questions still surround the two teams in the Finals on whether the matchup could hurt the ratings on ABC.
Last year the Finals between Stephen Curry’s Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics averaged 12.4 million viewers. In 2022, viewership was up by 22% compared to the Milwaukee Bucks vs Phoenix Suns in 2021.
Based on the current numbers, the 2023 NBA Finals viewership should increase. Through the first 31 games, the NBA Playoffs averaged 5.579 million viewers on the ESPN platform, moving up 9% from last year.
However, Jokic vs Butler doesn’t carry the same magnitude as LeBron James or Steph Curry, and big names matter, especially when it comes to TV ratings.
Both the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat have only the 16th and 18th largest U.S TV markets, respectively.
The small TV market size has had some people questioning the Finals matchup. Fox Sports radio host, Doug Gottlieb has gone on to say that he thinks the Nuggets vs Heat will be a TV ‘dud’.
Will the Finals Be Worth Watching?
Even though a Boston Celtics vs Los Angeles Lakers matchup would have reignited the league’s longest standing rivalry, ESPN expert Mike Breen believes this rendition of the Finals with the Heats and Nuggets could generate the best pure basketball in years.
The Denver Nuggets are different and the Finals will showcase the two-time MVP Jokic after he just swept James and the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.
According to LeBron, the Nuggets are the best team he’s played in the last four years as a Los Angeles Laker. That alone speaks volume of how good Nikola Jokic and company are. After the addition of Aaron Gordon, the team has morphed into an absolute matchup nightmare.
Even without a few of the league’s biggest stars, the 2023 NBA Finals will still be worth watching, thanks to some interesting storylines surrounding both the Nuggets and Heat.