Many people enjoy watching the San Antonio Spurs — their convoluted motion-based system is capable of producing points in a hurry — but there is still a sizable subsection of America that cannot stand the Spurs and their "boring" brand of basketball. (Ignoring the fact, of course, that they have finished among the top seven in offensive efficiency in three consecutive seasons.)
Without the allure of either Kevin Durant's Oklahoma City Thunder, Chris Paul's Los Angeles Clippers and Kobe Bryant's Los Angeles Lakers — each were prohibitive favorites in the Western Conference prior to the regular season — ABC TV ratings dropped significantly last week according to Sports Media Watch.
Sunday's Game 4 tilt between the Spurs and Golden State Warriors registered a 3.4 rating (5.3 million viewers). Those numbers represent a 29 percent decrease in viewers from last year's Heat-Pacers series and 36 percent from the Lakers-Mavericks series in 2011 via Awful Announcing. Knicks-Pacers drew identical ratings on Saturday, too. The Players Championship on NBC, by comparison, received 7.6 million viewers.
These have been consistent trends, dating back to the Spurs' second NBA Finals appearance in 2003 against the New Jersey Nets, which only drew a 6.5 rating, the second-lowest figure since ABC began airing the NBA Finals. ABC's lowest rated series occurred four years later when, surprise, the Spurs battled the Cleveland Cavaliers in a low-scoring four-game sweep.
Last year's Western Conference Finals was the anomaly. Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden can drive ratings by themselves and TNT benefited to the tune of 7.8 million viewers.
Memphis' stifling defense also doesn't entice the casual fan. Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Zach Randolph are excellent players, and coach Lionel Hollins is emerging as a star, but they don't quite generate the same national buzz. San Antonio rather hide away in concealed obscurity, than dare be interesting to the average basketball fan.
That works for them, but the league and it's partners can't be excited for the recent ratings nosedive.