In a recent article for The Athletic, Staff Writer Ethan Strauss combed through Showbuzz Daily’s database of national TV viewership to find out who garnered the highest average number of viewers amongst NBA teams. Strauss filtered out anomalous factors like ABC games, opening week games and holiday games—essentially, he only factored in weekday ESPN and TNT games.
The no. 1 spot went to the obvious option: the Los Angeles Lakers at over 1.5 million average viewers. But coming in right behind them at no. 2 with just under 1.4 million viewers (1,391,750 to be exact) is their little brother, the LA Clippers. Strauss mentions that the sample size is small, as LA only had five qualified games. The Clippers beat out the Warriors, Nets and Celtics in the top five.
It’s worth considering what these ratings say about the national opinion of this Clippers squad. The team as a whole was ridiculed after their playoff collapse last season, and Paul George in particular took a lot of flack for his personal failures and finger-pointing thereafter. It seems, at least based on social media and talking-head commentary television, that the Clippers might not be that likeable beyond their local fanbase. They did a lot of talking, particularly in the bubble, before falling far short of their goal of a title, and NBA fans outside of Los Angeles (and the Laker fans in Los Angeles) have not easily forgotten it. But the above numbers indicate that this disdain does not translate to a boycott of their games. Regardless of their perception, the Clippers are unquestionably an exciting team that elicits fun matchups with other contenders.
LA plays an entertaining style of basketball that appears to translate to high viewership. They have the third-highest offensive rating in basketball, and Kawhi Leonard’s game is predicated on a lot of tough-shot making in the midrange–something that fans don’t often get a chance to see in the three-point era through which we’re currently traversing.
Perhaps the Clippers are becoming the perfect villain of the NBA—a collection of scrappy characters that love to bark (Patrick Beverley, anyone?) and frustrate fans to no end. If the narrative fits, wear it. At the end of the day, if fans are flocking to watch another team conquer them, they’re still flocking to watch them as well. And maybe once these fans are tuned in, they’ll realize this squad might not be so bad after all.