The 2013 NBA Finals kicked off with a fantastic Game 1 between the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat. It was everything the NBA could have asked for from an opening game to a series as the Spurs kept Miami close throughout and ultimately registered a dramatic come-from-behind 92-88 victory on the road.
In spite of their success, the Spurs have never materialized into a national ratings draw. The "boring" label may not be fair to this year's team, but it's clear the nation has never embraced the Spurs. Since 1982 San Antonio has been involved in the three lowest rated Finals:
2007 Spurs vs Cavaliers – 6.2
2003 Spurs vs Nets – 6.5
2005 Spurs vs Pistons – 8.2
To basketball fans, it doesn't make sense, but it's the harsh reality. The Spurs are a modern day dynasty that has lived in anonymity for over a decade. What would the star power of the Miami Heat deliver against this year's Spurs team? The game delivered a strong rating for ABC/ESPN and the NBA – a 10.6 overnight. ESPN is promoting the 10.6 overnight rating as the third highest since 2004. However, not mentioned in the spin is the fact that the rating is actually down from last year's Thunder-Heat Game 1. That game delivered an 11.8 overnight, which was the highest ever for an opening Finals game on ABC. This year's number is on par with 2011's Mavericks/Heat Game 1 that registered a 10.7 overnight.
It's a solid start ratings wise for ABC/ESPN and the NBA, but not quite spectacular given the starpower of LeBron James and the fact that the Spurs are a 4 time NBA champion. The good news for ESPN is the high quality, entertaining, competitive nature of Game 1. If this series goes 6 or 7 games, the ratings should only go up from here.