How popular are Warriors? ESPN to show quest for 73, Kobe farewell bounced to ESPN2

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The Golden State Warriors are the hottest property in the NBA, one of the hottest in all of sports.

Their win Sunday in San Antonio — getting them a record-tying 72nd win — drew an average of 2.6 million viewers, the most ever in the history of NBA TV for any show. (I assumed The Starters had a larger audience than that, but maybe Skeets isn’t the sex symbol draw I imagined.)

So it shouldn’t be a surprise that ESPN has decided to put the Warriors quest for 73 wins Wednesday night against Memphis on the main mothership network. They are bumping Kobe Bryant‘s final game to ESPN2, the network has announced.

Kobe’s fans have always been blindly passionate and, as you would expect, this provoked some outrage on Twitter. (What doesn’t provoke outrage on Twitter?) This tweet seemed to sum up the sentiment.

Kobe essentially shrugged. Here are his comments, via Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.

“What the hell do I care?” Bryant said before resorting to sarcasm. “It hurt my feelings.”

What motivated ESPN’s move? Ratings. Nothing else.

ESPN is in the business of making money for the Walt Disney Corporation (just like NBC Sports does for Comcast). Their goal is to put things on your television that people want to watch. Right now, Stephen Curry and the Warriors are the hottest NBA property; they are a bigger draw than the 16-win Lakers regardless of Kobe’s status. Plus, there’s real drama with the Warriors because they could lose (the Grizzlies are banged up but did push them hard last game behind 24 points from Matt Barnes). With Kobe, it’s a ceremony, and while it’s an emotional one we know how the story ends.

Bottom line: There will be more eyeballs on Curry than Kobe Wednesday. ESPN made a business decision.

And Kobe fans, ESPN2 is just a button push away on your remote. You can find it.