maya moore-minnesota lynx MINNEAPOLIS, MN – OCTOBER 04: Maya Moore #23 of the Minnesota Lynx drives to the basket against Essence Carson #17 of the Los Angeles Sparks during the second quarter of Game Five of the WNBA Finals on October 4, 2017 at Williams in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

For the third straight year, the Los Angeles Sparks and Minnesota Lynx delivered a dramatic five-game series in the WNBA Finals, and this time the audience on ESPN responded like it hasn’t in a while.

According to ESPN, which aired the WNBA Finals for the 15th straight year, the 2017 series was the highest rated since 2003. The series averaged a 0.5 metered market rating, 24 percent up from 2016. Wednesday night’s Game 5, in which the Lynx defeated the Sparks 85-76 to capture their fourth title in seven years, was the most watched WNBA Finals game since 2003, per ESPN, despite going up against the NL wild-card game on TBS.

We’ve got to be careful projecting a well-rated series forward or assuming this is some turning point for the WNBA. This isn’t the first time the league has posted strong viewership numbers, and while it is certainly the most successful women’s sports league in American history, it still hasn’t gained too much ground in the national sporting conversation.

Some of the strong rating for the 2017 Finals was the highly appealing matchup. The Lynx and Sparks were meeting for the third straight year, looking to break the tie in their trilogy. They were both great teams with big-name crossover stars in Maya Moore and Candace Parker as well as top players like Sylvia Fowles, Seimone Augustus, Nneka Ogwumike Odyssey Sims and Chelsea Gray. If any WNBA matchup was going to draw solid viewership, it was this one.

Obviously the WNBA is not a huge ratings bonanza for ESPN, but this series show that a fairly robust audience exists for the league. And if ESPN can draw more than half a million viewers on a Wednesday night when they have no other live rights, no one is Bristol is going to complain.

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports,, and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.