The Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals is exactly what NBA commissioner David Stern and ABC executives could have hoped for.
Los Angeles is the No. 2 television market in the country with more than 5.4 million households. Detroit is No. 10 and accounts for nearly 2 million.
Roughly more than seven million households are accounted for between the two cities located more than a thousand miles and three time zones apart. A rematch of the 1988-89 NBA Finals between the Pistons and Lakers insured ABC of producing some good TV ratings.
Game 1 drew an impressive 10 share or approximately 10 million homes to rate as the second-most viewed program on TV last week and forecast what was to come for TV viewership for the rest of the series .
A single national ratings point represents 1 percent or just over a million households. There are an estimated 108.4 million television households in the country, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Game 3 of the NBA Finals was the highest-rated show on network television Thursday night. ABC's telecast of the Pistons' 88-68 victory produced a 10.5 rating with a 19 share, 50 percent higher than the 7.0 earned by last year's Game 3 between New Jersey and San Antonio. It was 3 percent higher than Game 3 between the Nets and the Lakers in 2002.
Furthermore, the average for the three games this year is a 10.4 with an 18 share, 68 percent higher than last year and 4 percent higher than 2002.
The Pistons and Lakers series provides ABC with something that Minnesota, New Jersey and Indiana wouldn't have been able to provide. That's a blast from the past.
Even without Magic or Isiah present, a Pistons-Lakers series conjures up memories when the NBA was a lock for solid TV ratings for NBC, which ended ties with the NBA a few years back as a result of declining ratings.
The Shaquille O'Neal- and-Kobe Bryant-led Lakers have been a media circus attraction throughout the season, particularly Bryant, who has spent many days of the season flying back and forth from Los Angeles to Colorado courtrooms to deal with his alleged rape case.
With off-season additions of veteran all-stars Karl Malone and Gary Payton, story lines involving the Lakers never ceased.
Even before the Lakers actually reached the NBA Finals it was obvious they would hold up their end as far as luring viewers in front of their TVs no matter what team played. Lakers' games that aired nationally on cable stations throughout the season normally drew solid numbers.
Other than perhaps New Jersey no other Eastern Conference team in this year's playoffs would have made for a better television ratings matchup for L.A. than Detroit. The Nets represent the New York television market, which is the top TV market in the country.
However, the latest TV ratings numbers show a Lakers-Pistons series has history behind it that will cause people to tune in while reflecting back to a time when the NBA was generally a prime-time hit.
NBA TV will premiere the award-winning documentary Hooked: The Legend of Demetrius about "Hook" Mitchell on Monday night at 8. Mitchell, a 5-9 Oakland playground standout, is recognized as arguably the best basketball player to never reach the NBA.
He created his star status by leaping over the top of a Volkswagen and dunking a basketball.
"He was by far the best player to come out of Oakland," said NBA All-Star Jason Kidd, who grew up in the Oakland area. "There is no comparison to me, Gary Payton, Antonio Davis, Greg Foster or Brian Shaw."
Hooked, scheduled for DVD release in October, has been viewed at several film festivals and received such recognition as best documentary.
World Bowl XXII, NFL Europe's championship game, is scheduled to air today at noon on Channel 36.
Rohan Davey, one of the New England Patriots' backup quarterbacks to Tom Brady the last few seasons, leads the Berlin Thunder (9-1) against the Frankfurt Galaxy (7-3).
Arena Football playoff action is also on tap. Chicago faces San Jose in a semifinal contest today and Colorado meets top-ranked Arizona tomorrow. Each game is scheduled at 3 on Channel 24.
ESPN's second 60-minute installment of All Exclusive, hosted by Ahmad Rashad, will feature Peyton Manning, Tiger Woods, Charles Barkley and Pete Sampras on Monday night at 7.