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You are not tuning in to watch Spurs vs. Grizzlies

May 23, 2013, 3:15 PM EDT

Memphis Grizzlies v San Antonio Spurs - Game Two Getty Images

The network suits at TNT have to be happy they have the rights to the Eastern Conference finals — they got the Heat and LeBron James to showcase. Indiana may be a small market to go against them (you know the network was pulling for the Knicks last round) but at least they have crossover stars.

ABC/ESPN has San Antonio and Memphis, and while fans may respect the games of Tim Duncan and Tony Parker they don’t tune in to watch them play.

That’s evidenced by the NBA Western Conference Finals ratings posted by Sports Media Watch (via The Big Lead).

Game 2 of the Grizzlies/Spurs NBA Western Conference Finals drew 4.6 million viewers on ESPN Tuesday night, down 48% from Celtics/Heat Game 2 last year (8.8M), and down 34% from Thunder/Mavericks Game 2 in 2011 (7.0M). Compared to Game 2 of last year’s Thunder/Spurs WCF on TNT (7.3M), Tuesday’s viewership declined 37%.


And it gets worse. That was the least viewed conference finals game since Jazz/Spurs in 2007. Even last round some of the games between the Thunder/Grizzlies and Warriors Spurs drew bigger numbers.

Those of us that love the game of basketball can preach about how the Spurs play a beautiful, smart game but that is not going to make people tune in and watch. Stars get people to watch. And while we can argue that Tim Duncan and Tony Parker are stars whose names crossover outside the world of basketball, the numbers don’t lie — people don’t tune in to watch them. The three lowest rated finals since 2000 all involved the Spurs.

Which means the ABC/ESPN network guys, who will broadcast the finals, are lighting candles in church in hopes the Heat make the NBA Finals.

  1. aboogy123456 - May 23, 2013 at 3:24 PM

    It’s sad, spurs are one of the most entertaining teams in the league, and they’ve been great for the last decade and a half, yet they still don’t get any respect. After two good seasons by the heat and one championship, we are already proclaiming the Heat as the greatest thing ever and talk about lebron’s legacy, yet Duncan, a clear top 10 player of all time, never comes up in those types of conversations.

    • Estéfano Souza - May 23, 2013 at 3:26 PM

      I can’t agree more than that.

    • WatchThis - May 23, 2013 at 7:14 PM

      If they can create a fantastic enough storyline about the remaining teams (like they do for any UFC match), the more would watch. Without storyline, you only want to see the Heat.

    • zeusfiction0 - May 23, 2013 at 7:43 PM

      This is typical in this ESPN era. All season long I watched the talking heads discuss Lebron/Heat, Kobe/LA, OKC. Spurs were an afterthought if they were brought up at all.
      I love the fact that there’s no drama, even when the NBA played up the game when the Big 3 didn’t suit up against MIA.
      Or the mini-drama of the pic showing Duncan and Parker with a gun pointed to the head of a Joey Crawford lookalike while in Halloween costumes.

      • Kurt Helin - May 24, 2013 at 12:05 AM

        ESPN is in the business of getting ratings, why do you think there is more Heat or Lakers talk than Griz talk. The media is a democracy more than people think — watch/click on it and you get more of it.

    • nbascreed - May 23, 2013 at 8:02 PM

      Lebron is entertaining and transcends basketball as an icon. Tim Duncan, Randolph and Parker do not. It really is that simple.

      • remmsterr - May 23, 2013 at 11:12 PM

        You’re an idiot nbascreed.

      • bougin89 - May 24, 2013 at 10:19 AM

        Wow. This comment is just absurd. You must not like basketball if you cannot appreciate how great Tim Duncan is. I’d even go to bat for Zach Randolph. Do you not like gifted post players??

  2. realtalk90 - May 23, 2013 at 3:31 PM

    SPURS will be the spurs the only thing on there minds is championship ring.

  3. pistolpete0903 - May 23, 2013 at 3:31 PM

    A swan song to Stern would be a Grizzlies – Pacers finals!!!!!
    Clearly, it is for the people to loose if they are not watching the Spurs play.

  4. bucrightoff - May 23, 2013 at 3:31 PM

    The last line is funny. David Stern will ensure Miami is in the Finals. You think he’s going out as commish with Indiana-San Antonio, and its record low of probably (maybe?) 6 million viewers, as his last Finals?

  5. Estéfano Souza - May 23, 2013 at 3:32 PM

    This is stupid and a bad perception about what is basketball. We’ve seen some of the best playoff games in years, but only the superstars and TV ratings are important.

    That’s the legacy of David Stern. Thanks for nothing. Mr. S.

  6. WatchThis - May 23, 2013 at 3:33 PM

    People want to watch Lebron and then any team they’re rooting for. That means, this time of year, most are wanting to watch Lebron. I’m a Pistons fan, but what else am I going to do this time of year lately. I gotta watch the league’s best player….not necessarily the league’s smartest team. Plus, the Heat may well be one of the most entertaining team’s to watch. They play destruction basketball. This is fun. Good luck to all the team’s that want to beat em, but these are the guys to watch.

    That being said, my money’s on the Spurs/Heat being the Finals that the most people want to watch. I’ll watch either way, but I’d rather see the Spurs in it.

    • WatchThis - May 23, 2013 at 3:38 PM

      If I’m going to watch at all, the Heat have to be in it.

  7. C.E. Smith - May 23, 2013 at 3:35 PM

    Doesn’t this seem a little like sports reporter narrative creation? So Thunder/Spurs was 37 percent higher than this. Spurs/Warriors a few weeks ago drew bigger numbers. Why doesn’t Kurt draw any conclusions about the Grizzlies? Also, why does Kurt continue to insist that the Spurs marketability exists in a vacuum? The notion of stars and which players are stars is a media-driven framework for how to describe the league. The idea that the Spurs of the mid-2000s were boring was a media-driven story line. Other teams that play or played similarly have often been labeled “throwback teams” or old school, hard nosed, grit and grinders, etc.

    There were recently two very good profiles of Gregg Popovich out there, but both were done almost entirely without Gregg’s participation. Part of the reason the Spurs aren’t marketable is because the players and staff within the organization don’t make themselves available to reporters, and so reporters don’t have much material to work with. Part of the reason also is that San Antonio doesn’t have the easy, soap opera drama of other teams. If you want to talk Spurs, you have to actually talk about the game of basketball, which seemingly most reporters either don’t understand or don’t think is sellable to readers and viewers.

    Part of the problem also is that sports reporters are, at least mostly, lazy hacks who recycle cliches ad nauseum and can’t even be bothered to ask questions during press conferences, but instead just request someone to “talk about this,” and then readily accept whatever uninteresting platitude comes out of the interviewee.

    This is a story because it’s always been a story and always will be a story because nothing changes in the world of lazy writers.

    • Kurt Helin - May 24, 2013 at 3:32 PM

      I love to watch the Spurs play, one of my favorite teams to watch as a fan of basketball the game. You do not catch me saying the Spurs are boring. But the reality is the Spurs do not excite the casual sports fan, the numbers show it. You are right, it’s partially that Popovich and Duncan don’t sell themselves like LeBron/Kobe/Durant. It’s not a market size thing, OKC draws people to the television. Bottom line is I don’t have to like it to recognize it.

  8. 91devinhester23 - May 23, 2013 at 3:40 PM


  9. azarkhan - May 23, 2013 at 3:40 PM

    If a Martian landed and asked “What is basketball?”, I would say “Watch the Spurs.” If the casual fan doesn’t appreciate how the Spurs play basketball, then the casual fan is an a$$.

    • WatchThis - May 23, 2013 at 7:13 PM

      I can appreciate it, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy watching it. You know that.

  10. cbt22 - May 23, 2013 at 3:47 PM

    The casual fan doesn’t care about the Grizzlies or the Spurs simply because they do not get the media attention they deserve. Marc Gasol is a top 3 center, Z Bo is a top 5 PF and Conley is slowly becoming one of the better PGs in the league. The Spurs have been relevant for many years. Yet when I watch ESPN when the Western Conference Finals aren’t on all I see is Lebron being the greatest, NY losing because Melo couldn’t get it done. They talk about Dwight and Chris Paul and where they might go. Yet they don’t spend that much time talking about the Spurs and Grizzlies which could turn out to be a really great series. If the NBA wants to have better ratings for the West finals maybe they should alert ESPN to actually spend more time talking about them.

    • aboogy123456 - May 23, 2013 at 4:03 PM

      great points. the media’s defense to these types of things is they just talk about and write about what people are clicking on and watching, and if you complain, don’t click on the article. It sucks because if you are a new fan to the nba, how are you going to become a fan of a small market team if you never see them or they’re never talked about? I have NBA league pass but it’s expensive, if I didn’t I would only see 5 or 6 teams play every year. If I were in the media I would try to care less about clicks and more about educating people on what’s actually going on.

    • asimonetti88 - May 23, 2013 at 4:10 PM

      This is exactly why I don’t watch or read ESPN anymore.

      • cbt22 - May 23, 2013 at 4:34 PM

        Its so annoying. Marc Gasol is really good, maybe played better then Dwight at times. he gets some love on ESPN but usually only by the NBA crew. Sports center maybe shows a highlight of a Griz regular season game and then spends a good 20 minutes on who is better at going to the bathroom lebron or kobe followed by Tebow coverage. I actually like watching the inside the NBA on TNT because their crew gives props to people who deserve it.

    • zeusfiction0 - May 23, 2013 at 7:45 PM

      Excellent comment. Bravo!

  11. chicitybulls - May 23, 2013 at 4:28 PM

    I would LOVE to see how Pops feels about people/media saying people are not tuning in to watch his team. It’ll probably be something like “I dont give a f****”.

  12. majorhavoc83 - May 23, 2013 at 4:35 PM

    To be honest, the biggest issue I personally have is that the games are on too late on the east coast. Some of these games start after 10 PM on a work/school night. We’re big basketball fans, and my son plays competitive basketball. We watch as many games as we can, but the west coast games are often tough to catch.

    • sdelmonte - May 23, 2013 at 4:48 PM

      Amen. It annoys me so much that the NBA can’t have day games on Memorial Day weekend anymore. Or at least games that start at 7 or 7:30 pm.

      • bucrightoff - May 23, 2013 at 4:53 PM

        One of the most memorable playoff games ever was the Pacers beating the Bulls on Memorial Day. Goddamn I miss 90s NBA.

      • kavika6 - May 23, 2013 at 5:24 PM

        Don’t forget the Memorial Day Miracle in 1999.

  13. secularhaze - May 23, 2013 at 5:27 PM

    i’ve been watching every second of the WCF because i love the style both teams have. im excited to see the series go to memphis, that crowd is always hot. i see the spurs in 6. spurs and pacers in the finals would be one of the lowest viewed finals…but as a basketball fan, a finals im honestly praying for.

  14. pantsfreezone - May 23, 2013 at 5:54 PM

    People don’t watch the Spurs because they aren’t athletic, shoot pull up jumpers and play smart defense instead of using flashy athleticism and iso ball. I think the Spurs are a great team.

    However, I don’t watch the Spurs because they flop more than any other team not named the Thunder and I can’t stand Manu Ginobli.

    • the1nonlyk - May 23, 2013 at 11:18 PM

      btw it was still top watched on cable n im sure even beat some some network shows in the 18-49 age group but wit the majority of tv viewers lackin brains (hello reality tv watchers) and it bein summer im not surprised. the population is lookin for flashy “heros” and bs storylines this is true talent and bball iq. if ur not watchin then ur missin out so f u also true that pop dont care hes still winnin n laughin all over his championship rings. so ha ha

    • the1nonlyk - May 23, 2013 at 11:21 PM

      @pantsfreezone. you are wrong my friend. spurs are very athletic. so tony parker who is hussling to the lane and then makin great passes or circus style shots where he extends his body in ways other players wish they could is not athletic? what other pg in playoffs can make 18 assists in a game? duncan doesnt do iso? please and they r playin awesome defense right now. that doesnt take athleticism? and flopping??? please ask tony allen about that. hes the only one flopping in wcf. dont say they r a great team n then say u dont watch them just because u dont like one player. thats pretty immature. ur obviously not a true bball fan. cuz its never about one player but the team.

  15. zeusfiction0 - May 23, 2013 at 7:51 PM

    All post-season, I’ve heard Spurs can’t play with LA front line. Spurs can’t handle Golden State’s youth. Spurs can’t handle Grizz physicality (after 2 games). LOL

  16. gmsalpha - May 23, 2013 at 8:07 PM

    I know it doesn’t factor into the ratings, but I don’t have a TV in my office, so I turn to the internet for games. Though I find the TNT Overtime experience to be annoying more than anything (there should be a tv feed with replays), at least I get to watch the Miami/Indiana series, whereas the ESPN3 app/website are blocked out in my area. You know, the lower 48.

    It’s going to be Miami over San Antonio in 6. But I would love to see Memphis/Indiana just for the hell of it. And I really don’t know if I’d watch it. But it’d be a great swan song for Howard Stern.

  17. the1nonlyk - May 23, 2013 at 8:11 PM

    forget about david stern. good riddance! now maybe basketball can grow n flourish!!

    • Kurt Helin - May 24, 2013 at 12:03 AM

      Yes, the game really didn’t flourish under Stern.

  18. indyjoshmo - May 23, 2013 at 8:44 PM

    I watched 3 minutes of the Griz/Spurs game and saw obvious fouls not called against Spurs and questionable calls agains the Griz. Then watched Parker find a guy to throw himself against to get a foul called. It’s just not interesting basketball. So I protest by turning it off. For no reason other than the flopping and one sided refereeing, I can’t stand to watch the spurs.

    • Kurt Helin - May 24, 2013 at 12:01 AM

      But you bother to come to an NBA blog and comment on a post about the TV ratings? If you actually didn’t care you wouldn’t be here.

  19. jadaruler - May 23, 2013 at 9:50 PM

    As much as I love the NBA, they do a poor job of marketing teams without a big name or big market. We’re fed the Lakers, Heat, Knicks, Bulls, and Thunder all of the time. Casual NBA fans don’t know about Memphis and the Spurs get ignored.

  20. 00maltliquor - May 23, 2013 at 10:00 PM

    I myself am not tuning in personally because I seem to always be working on the day they play.

    But since I can remember I have almost always avoided watching a Spurs game. Before I found them unbelievably boring but their brand of bball has changed the last few years. Still, I don’t really watch Spurs games unless there’s no other games on. I know I shouldn’t be like that, but I can’t help it. I maybe watch 5 Spurs games a year all the way through but that’s it.

  21. watermelon1 - May 23, 2013 at 10:21 PM

    Also because spurs get every call and STILL whine EVERY possession on both offense and defense. The players… Their coach… all whining throughout the entire game.

    But hey, it got them this far. Guess its working for them.

    • remmsterr - May 23, 2013 at 11:21 PM

      You must be talking about the Heat; this is a Spurs/Grizzlies article.

    • the1nonlyk - May 23, 2013 at 11:26 PM

      wow whining bout whining? just sad! every team n coach whines. this is nothing new. but dont disrespect what theyve accomplished n blame it all on whinih cuz u know thats jut not the case. skill n heart is y they always get as far as they do not whining. so go whine to somewhere else whiner

    • kavika6 - May 24, 2013 at 4:17 AM

      Are you a disgruntled Laker fan, GS fan or Grizzlies fan?

  22. txnative61 - May 24, 2013 at 1:02 AM

    It’s no secret the media thrives on controversy, sound bites, and flashy star athletes. Pop and Tim don’t play the game, and don’t respond with irrational outbursts or glamorous personal lives. I thought Tony Parker sleeping around with a teammate’s wife would liven them up a bit, but they remain hopeless purveyors of merely quality basketball.

  23. antihypocritz - May 24, 2013 at 10:11 AM

    Since when do “casual sports fans” watch ESPN?

    Those of you blaming ESPN for an outcome which you do not like sound just as ignorant as the Republicans that blame the media for election outcomes that they do not like.

    Casual sports fans know about the Heat/Lakers/Celtics because of total coverage across the spectrum, not because they reliably tune into Sportscenter every night.

  24. yuwannano - May 24, 2013 at 3:31 PM

    No one cares about the Spurs outside of SA. That’s how it’s always been. I think Pops likes it that way

    • the1nonlyk - May 24, 2013 at 9:05 PM

      well ur cleaaaarrllllly mistaken cuz im from fl still live in fl never even seen san antonio n i looooovvvveeee the spurs. therefore u r very mistaken. quality basketball team and super fun to watch. if ur not ur missing out but then again the spurs dont want dumb ppl like u watchin anyways. so go back to watchin ur gf honey boo boo

  25. rhettbogan - May 24, 2013 at 8:05 PM

    People these days are just too deep into hype and sensationalizing. I am so sick of hearing Lebron James talked about or Kevin Durant Or Carmelo Anthony. I would take Tim over these dudes any day of the week because he’s someone that’s about team first. I blame the sports media for this. I turned to four stations yesterday and all of them were talking about Lebron and the Heat. I almost lost my lunch….LOL Shaq, Barkley, Kenny Steven a. Skip Bayless. The all have nothing original to talk about. Everyday it’s the same ol’ talk.

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