A rivalry playoff matchup between multiple Hall-of-Famers on two of California’s top money-making teams proved to be a ratings juggernaut for the NBA.
On Monday the NBA announced that the Western Conference Semifinals series between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Golden State Warriors was the most-watched Conference Semifinals series in 27 years.
The six-game series, which ultimately ended in a Lakers victory, averaged 7.8 million viewers across each game broadcast on ABC, ESPN and TNT.
The results aren’t entirely surprising. Following Game 1 of the series, Warner Bros. Discovery, which owns TNT, announced that the first game of the series had set a new viewership record and was the most-watched game of its kind in the history of cable TV.
Other than the obvious cross-state rivalry, the series also had other historical implications that factored into the high viewership.
For one, it was the first time Lakers star LeBron James and Warriors phenom Stephen Curry met in the Western Conference Playoffs after battling it out in the NBA Finals for four straight years when James was a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
It was also a matchup between arguably the two biggest draws in sports and both James and Curry topped the 2023 list of the NBA’s top-selling jerseys — a metric often referenced when determining the game’s biggest stars in the eyes of the world.
The series also had major implications for the future of both franchises.
James is 38 and playing his 20th season in the league and became the league’s all-time leading scorer earlier this year. The Lakers started their season with a 2-10 record, but a midseason trade that saw the team ship off the miscast and often maligned Russell Westbrook, revitalized the roster and led to the Lakers storming back into the NBA Playoff conversation and into contention.
The Warriors, meanwhile, were the defending champions of the Larry O’Brien Trophy, and their loss in the Western Conference Semis launches the team into an uncertain future.
Franchise tent pole Draymond Green is able to opt out of the final year of his contract to become an unrestricted free agent. Green, 33, made headlines early in the league year when he was suspended by the team for punching fellow player Jordan Poole during a heated practice. Green was also suspended for one game of the opening round series between the Warriors and the Sacramento Kings after he stomped down on the chest of Kings star Domantas Sabonis.
Still, his defense and playmaking was critical for Golden State throughout the season and into the playoffs. Earlier this month, Green was named to another NBA All-Defense team, his eighth such honor.
General manager Bob Myers also has hinted that he’s not entirely sure how much longer he’ll be with the team.
The Warriors could be forced to make some difficult roster decisions over the summer, after the league and the union representing the players agreed to new spending restrictions that could have massive impacts on the highest spending teams in the league.
The Warriors are projected to have the most expensive roster in the NBA for the 2023-24 season.
The matchup between two of the NBA’s marquee franchises ended up being a dream scenario for the league and expectations are likely high for the Conference Finals.
The Lakers will take on the No. 1 seed Denver Nuggets and two-time MVP Nikola Jokic in the Western Conference Finals beginning Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. That game is in Denver and will be broadcast on ESPN.
On the opposite side of the bracket and country, the Boston Celtics will host the Miami Heat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals beginning Wednesday. That game tips off at 5:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on TNT.