Kevin Durant, LeBron James and NBA's star power overcome small market
Don’t bother shedding a tear for the NBA or ABC over being stuck with Oklahoma City, the nation’s 45th-largest television market, in the Finals.
OK, so you probably weren’t planning on shedding a tear anyway. But the point is, the league and its broadcast TV partner need not do so either.
That is because unlike baseball and hockey, where familiar logos drive interest and ratings, the NBA is star-driven, and with Kevin Durant, the Thunder has the star power to match that of the Miami LeBrons.
As play-by-play man Mike Breen said Monday of Durant, “He has the ‘it’ factor. There is something about him . . . He seems to have that charisma that people are attracted to even if they aren’t basketball fans.’’
And if people want to watch just to root against the Heat, that’s fine, too.
ABC is better off with the Thunder than the Spurs, whose numbing efficiency never has captured the fancy of casual fans. OKC should be able to do so. The very fact everyone has been calling OKC “OKC’’ is a good sign. It makes Oklahoma City actually sound cool.
The most noteworthy coverage change for ABC/ESPN is the addition of retired referee Steve Javie as an analyst on SportsCenter and pregame and postgame shows, helping the rest of us – and the announcers – understand officiating decisions.
“We just think it’s going to make people smarter,’’ executive producer Mark Gross said.
Javie retired before this season after 25 years because of a bum knee. Game analyst Jeff Van Gundy called him “one of the finest officials of all time.’’
Said JVG: “I would rather put Steve Javie on a Segway and still have him officiating than not have him here, because he’s that good.’’