The first Game 7 of the NBA Conference Finals in seven years earned record numbers for ESPN.
Game 7 of the Celtics/Heat NBA Eastern Conference Finals drew a 9.1 overnight rating on ESPN Saturday night, the highest on record for an NBA game on cable television (dates back to 2003*).
The previous record was an 8.2 overnight for Thursday’s Game 6.
Overnight ratings were not immediately available for Pistons/Heat Game 7 in 2005, the most recent comparable game. The 2005 game drew a 6.2 final rating.
Saturday’s 9.1 ranks as the highest overnight for an NBA playoff game, excluding the NBA Finals, since Lakers/Kings Game 7 on NBC in 2002 (16.9).
Locally, Game 7 drew a 25.0 rating in Miami-Ft. Lauderdale — the highest ever for an NBA game on ESPN in the market, and the third-highest overall for an NBA game on cable.
In Boston, Game 7 drew a 21.7 rating, the market’s highest ever for an NBA game on cable. To put that in perspective, Game 7 of last year’s Bruins/Lightning NHL Eastern Conference Finals drew an 18.8 in the market (with the caveat that Versus was in fewer homes than ESPN is in today).
* The 9.1 is likely the highest overnight ever for an NBA game on cable, but ESPN’s records only date back to 2003.
(Saturday’s numbers from ESPN Media Zone)