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Monday, July 28, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 2/15/2003

NBA will survive without Jordan

Even if the NBA's All-Star Game turned into an informal national farewell tribute for arguably the best basketball player to ever lace up, zip up or slip on a pair of basketball sneaks, it's finally safe to say the NBA will survive without Michael Jordan.

A 6.6 national TV rating and an audience of more than 20 million households for the game that took place last Sunday was the most viewed basketball game in cable TV history. Of course, many tuned in to see Jordan play in his final all-star contest before retiring at the end of this season.

However, don't be so na ve to think those homes with cable turned to TNT just to see how the Washington Wizards' version of Jordan would perform. If so, think again.

The impressive ratings figures (by cable TV standards) were just as much due to Yao Ming, Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, Dirk Nowitzki, Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan as Jordan. There may have been a period during the 1990s when Jordan single-handedly attracted people to follow the NBA.

However, the mere-mortal Jordan who is playing on soon-to-be 40-year-old legs (Monday is his birthday) basically draws homage for what he did during the 20th century and not for what he's able to do today.

There was a time when it was debatable that Jordan was bigger than the NBA.

But times have changed.

The NBA has evolved and matured to the point where Jordan didn't even receive enough All-Star votes to automatically earn a starting spot.

In the first year for ESPN and ESPN2 playing prominent roles in broadcasting NBA contests, the all-sports cable network has found an audience it didn't previously have other than for watching NBA highlights during nightly SportsCenter telecasts.

Through 40 NBA telecasts, ESPN averaged a 1.34 rating, which rates a 49 percent increase from the same time periods last year. A rating is the percentage of households tuned to a particular program from the total available television households.

Jordan and the Wizards, by the way, weren't involved in all of those ESPN, ESPN2 telecasts.

A special ceremony honoring Jordan took place during halftime of the All-Star Game. The oldest participant in the game spoke briefly and drew an extended applause from the crowd and his peers. He said he was leaving the game knowing that it's in good hands with the likes of Kobe, Shaq, and even Yao. The guy most responsible for carrying the league during one era even believes the NBA will still be around long after he attempts his final jump shot.

TNT's and ESPN's ratings for NBA games this season support the theory that the league is greater as a whole than it has been in recent times.

Controversial heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson is just as noteworthy these days offering up commentary with sports reporters as he is delivering knockouts in a boxing ring.

His latest verbal sparring experience with a sports reporter will air as ESPN's Sunday Conversation tomorrow night at 11. Jeremy Schaap recently sat down for a one-on-one conversation with the former heavyweight champion who is scheduled to fight little-known Cliff Etienne in Memphis on Showtime.

The interview offered Tyson a chance to speak out since losing to Lennox Lewis in Memphis last June in a bout that brought in $103 million from pay-per-view revenue, which stands as the most revenue made for any pay-per-view event.

Among the subjects Schaap spoke with Tyson about is if he's gone through any type of emotional therapy. Tyson's reply: “No, I need therapy [laughs]. I haven't been in therapy, I need therapy. This is my therapy right here - cracking people's skulls. That's my therapy.”

Channel changing:

The City League girls championship game between Central and Start today at 3 will be televised tape-delayed tonight on TV5 at 11:30.

The University of Toledo women's basketball team will play Ohio tomorrow in a game airing on Fox Sports Net at 4 p.m.



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