For NBA stars sell: 2015 NBA Finals draw highest television ratings since Jordan era

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For decades — since Magic Johnson and Larry Bird — the NBA has marketed its stars more than its teams. With that, the NBA’s television ratings and national popularity have been tied to the quality of its stars.

When the 2015 NBA Finals pitted the two most popular players in the game today — LeBron James and Stephen Curry — the NBA was in for a ratings bonanza.

These NBA Finals averaged 19.9 million viewers per game, up 30 percent from last year (when LeBron James was there taking on Tim Duncan and the Spurs), the league and ESPN/ABC announced. That is the highest ratings ever since ABC took over the broadcasts. ESPN’s Darren Rovell reported it’s the highest ratings for an NBA finals since 1998 — Michael Jordan’s final season (we choose to ignore the Wizards years).

NBA television viewership has been up and down in recent seasons, but the drama of this series drew viewers to their televisions.

It also sent them to social media — Facebook reported 32 million of its users were discussing the NBA Finals and there were 98 million video views tied to the Finals.

The real test for the NBA is to build on this next year — regardless of who makes the NBA Finals.