NBA Finals creep past last year's ratings

The ratings aren’t like Mike’s, but NBC will take them.

Monday’s Game 6 of the NBA Finals delivered pro basketball’s largest rating since Michael Jordan retired two years ago, helping this year’s championship series avoid the indignity of finishing behind last year’s low-water marks.

The Lakers’ title-clinching victory over the Pacers netted a 14.7 rating and 26 share in homes — well above the average for this year’s finals and the best since Jordan’s final game in June 1998 (22.3/38). It easily topped all five games of last season’s finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the New York Knicks.

Big score

The big score was enough — although just barely — to push this year’s overall finals rating (11.5) ahead of last year’s 11.3. But compared with Jordan’s final season in 1998 — when his Chicago Bulls topped the Utah Jazz in six games — this year’s Finals finished a whopping 39% behind in homes (11.5 vs. 18.7).

Because Jordan single-handedly propelled the NBA to its highest ratings levels ever, a more meaningful comparison for this year’s finals would be with 1995, the last finals without Jordan prior to his retirement. That year’s Houston-Orlando series averaged a 13.9 for its four games, 21% better than this year.

Monday’s game, a nail-biter in which the underdog Pacers led until the final minutes, peaked from 12 to 12:30 a.m. EDT with an 18.0/36.

Hometown viewers

It drew a 39.2/56 in Los Angeles and a 48.2/61 in Indianapolis — both easily the best numbers of the series. By comparison, in L.A. the game finished 8% behind March’s Academy Awards telecast (39.2/56 vs. 42.7/61), while in Indianapolis it fared 11% better than January’s AFC championship game between the Indianapolis Colts and Tennessee Titans (43.4/65).

In demos, the game scored a 10.0/29 in adults 18-49, a 10.1/27 in adults 25-54 and a 9.7/30 in adults 18-34. It also drew a 12.3/34 rating in men 18-49, the largest for any sporting event since January’s Super Bowl.

NBC easily won the night, by 6 shares in homes and by 10 shares in adults 18-49 over second-place CBS.

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