This past summer, LeBron James spearheaded the NBA’s anti-Trump political protests.
But something changed.
And LeBron James had a very different reaction to Donald Trump on opening night.
The NBA is coming off their summer reset in the Orlando bubble where the league saw its TV audience flee the product.
Ratings were down massively in the regular season and the NBA finals – even though it featured LeBron James’ Los Angeles Lakers – plummeted to all time lows with episodes of Tucker Carlson Tonight drawing bigger viewership.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver pegged the league’s in anti-Trump protests which took the form of in-your-face Black Lives Matter worship and social justice messaging – culminating with the players going on strike during the playoffs after the police shooting of accused rapist Jacob Blake – as the culprit and promised a politics-free 2020-2021 season.
Silver was true to his word as the courts no longer had “Black Lives Matter” painted on it and the players were back to wearing their names instead of anti-police slogans on their backs.
LeBron James didn’t deliver any political speeches and avoided all mention of President Trump in the run up to the game.
The NBA’s return to sports paid off as the ratings for opening night – featuring a doubleheader of the Golden State Warriors taking on the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers battling their arena co-tenant Clippers – rose to three year highs and easily bested this summer’s salute to Black Lives Matter return.
Sports Media Watch reported:
The NBA’s Opening Night doubleheader averaged a Nielsen-estimated 2.87 million viewers on TNT Tuesday night, up 1% from last year (2.85M), up 2% from 2018 (2.82M), and the most-watched Opening Night since 2017 (4.88M)…
… Compared to the first night in the NBA’s Walt Disney World “bubble” back in July, Opening Night viewership increased 5% from 2.74 million. Warriors-Nets increased 28% from Jazz-Pelicans (2.11M) while Clippers-Lakers declined 8% from the same matchup (3.35M).
Silver admitted before the season that there were large segments of the fan base that just wanted to watch a basketball game.
For a few hours on Tuesday night that is exactly what the NBA delivered.
And the fans rewarded them.
Sports with Balls will keep you up-to-date on any new developments in this ongoing story.