While the ratings for NBA games weren’t too hot when the current season started, the league started gaining eyeballs a-plenty as the months passed and teams like the San Antonio Spurs, the Golden State Warriors and more hit some amazing streaks. It all culminated (for now) in Monday night’s Western Conference Final Game 7 between the Warriors and the Oklahoma City Thunder, a pulse-pounding contest that came down to the final minutes, and that game apparently ramped up a lot of people’s tension, as it drew the biggest audience in TNT’s 28-year history.
Though the final score of 96-86 doesn’t convey the close calls and excitement that came before, an average of 15.9 million viewers are well aware that the game was a nailbiter for an ample amount of time, cementing the Warriors as the tenth team in NBA history to get out of a 3-1 deficit. And as hard as it might be to believe, this stunning victory was watched by more people at one time than any other TNT program since the network first sprouted up in 1988. Which means it has beaten not only all of the network’s most notable original series over the years, but also all of the NBA games that have aired on the channel since 1989. That’s quite impressive.
Perhaps more impressive? The Warriors/Thunder game also managed to become the most-watched NBA game that has ever aired on a cable channel, according to TV By the Numbers. This particular game now sits atop the hundreds or thousands of other match-ups, looking down from coach Steve Kerr’s shoulders. Now, it definitely didn’t rank among the most-watched NBA games of all time. That probably-won’t-be-beaten record is held by the 1998 NBA Finals series between the Chicago Bulls and the Utah Jazz, which brought in an average of 25.2 million people across the six games, heavily boosted by it being Michael Jordan’s last season as a Bulls star.
Check out all of the highlights from the game below.
The Warriors’ victory will set up a repeat NBA Finals from last year, in which Curry and his fellow Warrior all-stars will take on LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Last year’s series brought in the biggest audience since the five-game 2001 routing of the Philadelphia 76ers by the reigning champ Los Angeles Lakers. I can’t imagine the rematch will come anywhere close to the Sixpeat, but stranger things have happened.
The NBA Finals will begin on ABC starting Thursday, June 2, at 8 p.m. ET.