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Warriors-Lakers play-in game gets huge TV ratings for ESPN

Larry Brown Sports logo Larry Brown Sports 5/20/2021 Grey Papke, Larry Brown Sports
More than 5.6 million viewers tuned in and saw Draymond Green poke LeBron James in the eye. © Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports More than 5.6 million viewers tuned in and saw Draymond Green poke LeBron James in the eye.

The NBA got everything it wanted and then some on Wednesday with the play-in game between the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers.

According to Richard Deitsch of The Athletic, the Lakers-Warriors play-in drew 5.6 million viewers on ESPN, a staggering number that easily rates as the highest-rated game of the season. The numbers for the final portion of the game were even better, with the final minutes attracting more than 6.1 million viewers.

For comparison’s sake, the NBA’s nationally televised regular-season broadcasts averaged 1.34 million viewers, according to Sports Media Watch. The league’s opening week numbers, which were quite solid in their own right, were also dwarfed. Perhaps most remarkable is that the play-in game nearly topped the NBA All-Star Game, which averaged 5.9 million viewers.


Video: Warriors vs. Lakers play-in game drew highest NBA audience on ESPN since 2019 (SMG)

The situation was certainly unique, as a battle between Stephen Curry and LeBron James was a dream matchup for the league in this scenario. The fact that the game lived up to the hype only made it better, and it’s a huge win that the ratings were as high as they were even with a late start time for East Coast viewers. Between this and the strong early returns from the less-hyped first set of play-in games, this new format is almost certainly here to stay.

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