Cavs-Warriors III has plenty of story lines and pre-series stats to analyze. One number to contemplate is 30.8. As in 30.8 million. As in the number of people who tuned in to watch last year’s nail-biting, anxiety-turned-to-joy Game 7.
ABC scored its highest NBA Finals ratings ever last June, according to Nielsen, as fans were glued to watching the Cavaliers topple the Golden State Warriors 93-89.
Is it possible for this year’s showdown (starting at 9 p.m. Thursday from Oakland’s Oracle Arena) to draw even bigger numbers?
Last year’s series was the most watched NBA Finals matchup since 1998, when the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls defeated the Utah Jazz in six games.
The Bulls-Jazz Game 6 from 1998, carried by NBC, still holds the overall Nielsen ratings record, with 35.9 million viewers. That game, won by a Jordan jumper in the final seconds, was the last of the Bulls’ vaunted run of six championships in the 1990s.
Of course, in terms of attentive eyeballs, that series was also played pre-Facebook, pre-Twitter, and pre- a host of other small- and large-screen distractions.
ABC’s second highest rated series? Cavs-Warriors in 2015, when the decisive Game 6 drew 23.25 million viewers.
LeBron James and crew have proved to be ratings gold for ABC, which started carrying the NBA Finals in 2003. The James-led Cavs have also outdrawn the James-led Heat, when Miami was a finals regular.
But can the third straight showdown between James and Steph Curry and company match last year’s big numbers? Will viewers nationwide be tuned in, or will they be turned off by the three-peat?
And speaking of last year: During Game 7, Nielsen reported that 46 percent of the homes in the Greater Cleveland market were watching some or all of the game.
Which begs the question: What on Earth were those other 54 percent possibly doing that night?
Clint O’Connor can be reached at 330-996-3582 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ClintOMovies .