Unless you live in a bubble, you’re probably aware of the Warriors-Thunder game on Saturday. It had everything you could possibly want from a regular season basketball game, and then some. But in addition to the incredible things that happened on-court, that game also had a profound impact in media.
For ABC, it was the payoff to creating a Saturday night primetime package. That game which, according to Richard Deitsch drew a 3.9 overnight rating, was the highest rated non-Christmas regular season game since 2013. It cemented the Saturday primetime package as the game of the week. Before Saturday, the weekend night games included other marquee match-ups — Bulls v. Cavs, Spurs v. Cavs, and Warriors v. Clippers, but those games weren’t particularly competitive. Warriors-Thunder wasn’t just a close game, it was memorable. It was exactly the game that the network needed to put the package firmly at the top.
The NBA has consistently lacked a marquee game every week. The Thursday TNT games and the Wednesday and Friday ESPN games are fine, but they’re not as big as the Saturday marquee games. Fans aren’t clearing their schedule to see Pistons-Spurs on ESPN this Wednesday night. But the Saturday night games can change that. With consistently good matchups, potential ability to flex matchups, and an iconic broadcast crew in Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, and Mark Jackson, the NBA has found its own version of Sunday Night Football.