The Cleveland Cavaliers made history this summer when they won the first major professional sports championship for the city of Cleveland since 1964. They did so in an epic series coming back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Golden State Warriors in a dramatic Game 7.
The 2016 Finals had everything for the perfect storybook Cleveland championship. Not only did the Cavaliers pull off a historic comeback, they did so with arguably the most famous athlete Northeast Ohio has ever produced coming home to fulfill his promise of winning a title.
But what if I told you that the Indians being in the World Series this year was actually more popular than the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals?
Through five games, the 2016 World Series between the Indians and the Cubs is actually outrating the 2016 NBA Finals between the Cavaliers and Warriors in the city of Cleveland. That’s doubly impressive given the Indians aren’t nearly as talked about (at least nationally) as the Cavs and the World Series has had two less games to boost ratings as they increase through the series.
Game 5 of the World Series drew a 48.6 rating in Cleveland with the Indians trying to clinch their first title since 1948, higher than any game of the 2016 NBA Finals, even Game 7. Here’s the game-by-game breakdown of Cleveland’s local ratings for each game:
2016 World Series
Game 1: 46.5
Game 2: 38.9
Game 3: 39.2
Game 4: 39.8
Game 5: 48.6
2016 NBA Finals
Game 1: 36.0
Game 2: 32.1
Game 3: 36.7
Game 4: 37.4
Game 5: 38.5
Game 6: 44.3
Game 7: 46.3
If these numbers continue and Game 6 (and maybe even 7) scores a local rating that’s on par with Game 1 or Game 5, it’s very likely that this year’s World Series will also pass the 2015 NBA Finals which averaged a 43.7 in Cleveland.
It’s not just the Indians surpassing James’ starpower and homecoming narrative that makes these numbers surprising, but also general support the Indians and Cavs receive. It’s been a long time since the Indians’ famous Progressive Field sellout streak ended and even though the team had great success this year, fans didn’t consistently show up. The Indians ranked 28th in MLB in attendance this year averaging just 19,650 fans per game. In fact, they were beaten by the Cavaliers in local attendance, who averaged 20,562 per game for their championship season.
What’s fueling the huge numbers in Cleveland? Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s the Indians’ first World Series appearance since 1997. Perhaps it’s nostalgia for those great teams of the mid-90s. Perhaps it’s the decades of history that the baseball franchise has in the city over their basketball counterparts. This year’s historic World Series matchup has drawn mega numbers nationally, but it’s just as significant to see it doing so well locally. It just leaves one question… can you imagine what kind of numbers a Browns Super Bowl would draw?