The NBA has been dealt a very tough hand this year. They had to suspend their season back in March, and now games have to be played in a bubble in Orlando, Florida. The league also had to put a lot of focus on social justice causes while the playoffs are going on. Despite all the work they’ve put it to try and make this a successful experiment, the ratings haven’t been great.
The ratings for this year’s playoffs are down around 20% compared to last year, according to Real GM and ShowBuzz Daily. Even the Los Angeles Lakers aren’t pulling great numbers with their massive fan base and superstar players. In a Q&A with GQ, Lakers veteran Jared Dudley was asked about his thoughts on the ratings and gave an honest answer:
I do care. I do think that for one, let’s just be honest, when it comes to us and football, do you think if we had 16 games the ratings would be so low? Just like baseball, they have 162 games and baseball ratings aren’t as good as us. Right now there are more games at different times. Games were on at 12 o’ clock. People work. People have jobs.
Also there are some people that don’t want to deal with politics when watching sports. There is a percentage of that. And so the Kaepernick thing, they turned off. The kneeling thing. You definitely have people who don’t want to deal with that who don’t watch because of it. Maybe next year, going against baseball more so than football, you’ll see the ratings get better. You always want to be trending in the right direction.
There are likely a number of factors that are affecting the ratings that aren’t only tied to politics. The bubble setup is very different and having no fans in the stands certainly makes the experience of watching a game less exciting. Like Dudley pointed out, it will be very interesting to see how a later start to the season could affect ratings. However, the NBA isn’t competing against football right now and they’re still struggling to get people to watch. This could just be the new normal for the NBA right now.
Dudley Offers Insight on Recent Meeting
Even with all of the sacrifices everybody has made to be in the bubble, everything almost fell apart last week when the Milwaukee Bucks decided to boycott a game over the shooting of Jacob Blake. What followed was a lot of uncertainty and it was looking like there was a real chance the season could get canceled altogether. There were numerous reports that came out that indicated that the meeting was contentious, to say the least. Dudley was in attendance and gave GQ some insight on how the meeting went:
It’s like when you argue with your parents, loved ones, family members. And we’re all trying to do what’s best. It’s good to have back and forth, to see hey, this is what this person feels or that person feels, now what’s best for the league? What’s best for the future players going forward? If there’s no dialogue you can’t get better so I don’t like when you hear ‘this player wanted this.’ Yeah, he wanted to say ‘Would this be a good idea? Hey I think it might be good if we don’t play or I think it might be good if we do play.’
You have to have dialogue: ‘Hey, these are the ramifications, these are the consequences, these are the positives. If we don’t play what will we do?’ I don’t like when it’s looked upon as a negative. Unless it’s something disrespectful or something that can hurt the league, and there [was none of that]. There were a lot of people who spoke: LeBron, Udonis Haslem, CJ McCollum, Doc Rivers. LeBron was like ‘Hey, I’m with the masses. I’m here. I’m good. Don’t worry about me.’ Because everyone looks towards him. ‘It’s not me vs. everyone else’—that’s one thing he said. ‘I’m with what everyone’s willing to do, but let’s have a plan. What is it? If we’re gonna give up something, what is it we’re giving up, and why?’
Eventually, cooler heads prevailed and the players decided to continue with the season. However, it did prove that the bubble has created a very fragile situation for the NBA.
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Dudley Doesn’t Think Playing Games Is a Distraction
One of the big reasons some players weren’t sold on the idea of playing in the bubble was the fact that they thought playing basketball could distract from fighting for social causes. Dudley actually has the opposite thought process:
I’ve always believed our voices are stronger and louder together. We’re doing this interview now because we’re playing. I have GQ doing an interview now just because of what’s going on. We’re not doing this interview if I’m at home. So it brings awareness. You hear VanVleet. You hear George HIll. You don’t know those names. The only names you hear when we don’t play are LeBron James or Kawhi Leonard, Steph Curry. You don’t hear these role players. Jaylen Brown? I just saw Jamal Murray put his Breonna Taylor shoes on the chair. You don’t get that if we sit. And then there’s the money. People say ‘it’s not always about money’ but money helps change communities. It’s not everything but it’s a big piece of what’s going on.
Follow Austin Boyd on Twitter: @austincjboyd