Analysis. History. Perspective.

Sports Then and Now

“The Decision” Is Not the Only Reason for the NBA’s Success

Posted on July 08, 2011 by A.J. Foss

The Miami Heat were must-see TV this year, but there were many other teams that NBA fans tuned in to watch.

It has now been one year since “The Decision”, the infamous one-hour show on ESPN where LeBron James announced that he would be “taking my talents to South Beach” to join Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami to play for the Heat.

According to some members of the media, it was this one hour that was the sole reason for the NBA to have their best season since Michael Jordan and the Bulls in the late 1990s.

But in my opinion, the league had been gaining momentum in the previous few years prior to “The Decision”.

The NBA’s resurgence really began during the 2007-08 season when the league’s two most legendary franchises, the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers, returned to championship prominence and ended up meeting in the Finals.

Ratings for that year’s playoffs and NBA Finals increased significantly from the year before where ratings for the NBA Finals reached an all-time low when the San Antonio Spurs swept the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Celtics and the Lakers have remained title contenders in the three seasons after their meeting in the 2008 Finals as Los Angeles would go on to win the next two NBA championships, including a seven-game series win over the Celtics in 2010.

Game 7 of that 2010 series was watched by 28.6 million viewers, the most-watched NBA game since Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals between the Chicago Bulls and the Utah Jazz.

In a star-driven league, the Lakers and the Celtics might be the only two teams where it not that important who plays for these teams, but the fact that these teams are playing (even though those two franchises have been flustered with stars for many years).

Plus, they play in two of the biggest markets in the United States; with Los Angeles at #2, and Boston at #7.

Interest for the 2010-11 NBA season was going to be high before LeBron made his decision simply because the Lakers and the Celtics were still going to be in the mix for the title.

Then, when LeBron decided to hook up with Wade and Bosh in Miami, the Heat joined the Celtics and the Lakers as one of the teams that NBA fans wanted to watch, though most of these fans probably wanted to see Miami lose.

As the season went along, two more teams entered this realm of must-see TV: the New York Knicks and the Chicago Bulls.

The Knicks became relevant for the first time in years with Amare Stoudemire and later trading for Carmelo Anthony, to form another “super team”.

While the Knicks only finished two games above .500 and swept out of the playoffs, the fact that the team in the country’s biggest market had acquired two of the biggest stars in the league and were winning again, helped keen even more interest in the NBA.

And then they are the Bulls, who finished with the best record in the league and featured the NBA MVP, Derrick Rose.

The Bulls are another glamor team in the NBA as they play in the country’s second largest city and are the team of the greatest player in NBA history, Michael Jordan.

These “glamor” teams being at the top of the NBA along with the Miami Heat created a perfect storm for the NBA, as television ratings and attendance figures were the highest that there had been in leagues.

The point is that the NBA did not have their best season since the Michael Jordan era was not just because LeBron James became the most polarizing athlete in sports and made the Miami Heat the team to watch.

It was helped by some of the league’s most storied franchises and biggest TV markets.

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