The hot take about the NBA Finals is simple: no one is going to watch a fourth iteration of the Cavaliers v. Warriors. The viewing public has seen this before. They know how this ends. The Cavs aren’t good enough to compete with the Warriors. It’s the version of asking if the UConn Women’s basketball team is bad for NCAA Women’s Basketball. The problem is that it’s generally not correct.
The NBA gets its most famous — and best — player going up against its most dominant and currently most followed team in the league. The Rockets were a fun story, but James Harden and Chris Paul aren’t Steph Curry or Kevin Durant. The Celtics were a nice story, but Al Horford and young guys like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown aren’t as famous combined as LeBron James. The finals are about drawing in casual fans. The easiest way to draw in casual fans is with LeBron James. The easiest way to draw in casual fans involves games with the defending champion Warriors. The NBA has exactly what it wants when it comes to an NBA Finals matchup.
The NBA got the matchup they wanted in the best way possible. There were two game sevens over a long weekend. ESPN touted its amazing ratings for game seven of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Rockers v. Warriors game seven garnered the second highest cable ratings for the NBA ever. That means a lot of casual fans watched the conference finals. It should transition to a lot of casual fans watching the NBA Finals.
The lack of game sevens contributed to some fears that it could affect BRI (basketball related income) again like the short playoffs affected things last year. The NBA had to shift around the conference finals schedule to make sure there wasn’t a huge delay before the NBA Finals — the NBA Finals dates were set no matter how long the playoffs went. Luckily for the league, both conference finals lasted the full slate of games. If we are to believe Las Vegas oddsmakers, the NBA Finals won’t last that long.
But four games of Cavs. Warriors are probably better than seven games of the Rockets v. Celtics in terms of interest and viewership numbers. There was no guarantee the Rockets or Celtics would make the NBA Finals last longer. This is taking the known over the unknown. This about the continued halo and marketing effect of one of the greatest basketball players ever. It’s about continuity. It’s about fans being familiar with the matchup. It’s about a marketing plan that’s been used — and successfully done — before. This finals matchup might not happen again, so it’s good it is happening now.
Dynasties are good for business. For all the talk about fatigue about certain teams, they garner clicks, attention, and ratings. The Patriots get attention which is why sports media focuses on them. The Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Dodgers, and Cardinals are good for baseball when they are good. The Warriors and the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals mean good things for the business of the NBA. Even if this Finals only goes four or five games, it was better than the unknown of the Rockets and Celtics being involved. The NBA has been winning consistently for the past two years whether it comes to its TV deals or the league in the news. It looks like Adam Silver and the NBA’s winning streak isn’t going to stop with this marquee matchup in the NBA Finals.