Crashing The Boards: NBA Finals Aim To Grab Super Bowl's Lightning In Bottle

Will we have a repeat of the Super Bowl with the NBA Finals?

ESPN Sports can't get a much better marquee match-up then the two longtime-storied NBA franchises of the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics.

The hope for ESPN and ABC is that big viewership will result in, if not new TV ratings records, at least a tremendous improvement from the historical lows the NBA Finals pulled in last year when the San Antonio Spurs bested the Cleveland Cavaliers, a series that earned a low-bouncing 6.2 household rating.

A lot has changed since the Lakers and Celtics last met in 1987.. ESPN sports executives hope those who watched those games will add to ESPN's improving young male viewership, and thus create a big number.

Though NBA's ratings surely improved this season over last, the trend of the last decade has been lower overall. Some blame the fact that the league focused too much on the marketing of individual players -- LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, for example -- rather than the teams themselves.



But the big-brand basketball names of the Lakers and Celtics will take care of that. To encourage that direction, ESPN will be re-airing the final game of the 1987 series between the teams. (The teams met in the finals three times between 1984 and 1987.)

This past Super Bowl had somewhat of a similar agenda. Two big-branded teams: the New England Patriots, looking to make history as the second undefeated team to win a Super Bowl, against a big-market team with its own long history, the New York Giants. But that wasn't enough to boost viewership alone. The Giants' upset victory in the midst of a close, tense game pushed it to most-viewed Super Bowl ever -- and the second-best individually rated TV show ever.

The Lakers and Celtics already have the lure of big team brands pulling in fringe viewers.  But a one-sided series would surely put the kibosh on things -- no matter how big those brands are.

Is there money to be made? Some. A majority of national advertising time has already been bought. But a few precious remaining units will go for big dollars.

The real value is what the series -- and current marketing -- does next year for the NBA.

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