Kobe-LeBron Can’t Beat Pro Bowl In TV Ratings?

Admit it, you forgot the Pro Bowl was even on when you were flipping channels on Sunday. Meanwhile, ABC was showing maybe the biggest NBA game of the season with Kobe matching up with LeBron in Cleveland. So what game got more viewers? Sorry Kobe, you might be able to drop 61 at MSG, but it looks like you might never beat the NFL.

NFL cheerleaders

(well, I guess the Pro Bowl does have this going for it too)

According to national ratings from Nielsen, the Pro Bowl drew 8.8 million viewers while the Cavs-Lakers game was watched by only 6.1 million. Granted, the Pro Bowl has its share of stars, and people love football, but the game is generally derided as a joke and an afterthought. The Kobe-LeBron matchup, however, was one of the most hyped individual matchups the NBA has seen in years, given their respective heroics in New York earlier in the week. Has the NBA really fallen this far in the eyes of the general public?

The Pro Bowl might be the most extraneous and ridiculous of all the All-Star games, but USA TODAY’s Michael Hiestand says the numbers don’t reflect that attitude:

That suggests that the NFL, with its plan to move the Pro Bowl to the weekend before the Super Bowl next year rather than the anticlimactic week after, should assist this TV sports anomaly in continuing to be a meaningless exhibition that draws big-time ratings.

NBA ratings continue to slide. Last year’s finals saw an uptick in viewers because of the Lakers-Celtics matchup, but still paled in comparison even to the years when Kobe and Shaq were picking apart the likes of the Pacers and Nets to win titles.

The NFL can do no wrong, though. After an unexpectedly spectacular Super Bowl that was the most-watched in history (in terms of number of viewers), the league has further solidified itself as the most popular in America. And, while it seemed absurd to suggest it a few years ago, the NBA has probably fallen behind MLB into third place (say what you want about the steroids scandals, but they’ve made baseball a whole lot more interesting as of late).

And it’s not just ratings that are hurting the NBA. NBA.COM’s David Aldridge says that the economy is taking its toll, and affecting trade decisions as we head toward the deadline. He says that many teams are trying to unload high-priced talent as a cost-cutting measure, even if it hurts the team competitively (think Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler). And while the expiring contract has always been a powerful tool in the NBA, a player like the Blazers’ Raef LaFrentz — whose $12.7 million salary is being paid mostly by insurance and comes off the books at the end of the year — is maybe the most sought-after trade target of all:

Interest in LaFrentz “just went from about a two in the last month a to nine and a half,” one Blazermaniac divulges, and the fact that having other teams read that is self-serving for Portland doesn’t mean it’s not true. The Blazers also have the kind of relatively inexpensive assets, from guards Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez to swingmen Travis Outlaw and Martell Webster, to put in a package that would be attractive for any team looking to cut costs.

Aldridge points out that the Grizzlies were assailed in the media for dumping Pau Gasol for pocket change last year, but many teams are looking to do the same kind of thing now to manage costs.

(thanks to SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY for the ratings numbers)

One comment

  1. GravatarRU Ready
    8:29 pm on February 10th, 2009


    I'll guess Cardinals, Panthers, Bucs, Raiders, Chargers.