The Golden State Warriors aren’t in the NBA Finals this season, of course. The Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns earned that distinction. The teams are battling for the league crown in what’s becoming a classic matchup, especially after a riveting Game 5 in which the Bucks took a 3-2 series lead.
But what about the last time the Warriors faced a Game 5? That was in 2019, when Golden State eventually lost to the Raptors in six games. And as riveting as this year’s Game 5 was, millions more NBA fans tuned in to watch the Warriors play Game 5 in the ’19 finals.
Here are the numbers, courtesy of the Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand.
That’s a huge difference in TV viewership, and a larger divide than I would have thought.
But by 2019, the Warriors were must-watch television, having established a dynasty starting with the franchise’s NBA title in 2015. Plus, as with any dynasty, many fans wanted to watch the Warriors lose. In 2019, ex-Warriors forward Kevin Durant was injured, as was guard Klay Thompson. That added to the impression that the then-mighty Warriors would actually lose, which the did.
The presence of Warriors superstar guard Stephen Curry undoubtedly drew throngs of fans to the TV set, too. He’s still one of the most popular players in the NBA, thanks to his league-altering style of play. He’s the foundation for what appears to be the most popular team in the NBA.
If Golden State ever makes it back to the NBA Finals with Curry, the ratings would likely be through the roof once again. That would be a huge story, especially after a couple of down seasons for the Warriors. But let’s see what the Bucks and Suns can do first, with Game 6 set for Tuesday night.
Bonus info: Here are the numbers for this season’s Game 6 against the 2019 version. They tell a similar story. (Also, congrats to the Bucks and their fans).