He may have lost the NBA Championship but final season-end numbers show that LeBron James has had the biggest impact on the NBA’s bottom line. According to Bloomberg, game 6 of the finals series between the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat was the best-rated program of the night, with viewership 22 percent higher than the previous year when the Celtics and the Lakers squared off in game 6.
Since James made the spectacular and controversial announcement that he would be leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers to play for the Miami Heat, fans and non-NBA fans alike have been watching his every move. He’s become the athlete you love to hate, and although the Heat have performed very well this season, they have become the team you love to hate. The unique narrative that brought together Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and James have helped to generate not only wins but great business stats for the Heat:
The Heat, owned by billionaire Carnival Corp. Chairman Micky Arison, averaged a capacity 19,778 fans at home this season, 2,048 better than a year ago. James and the Heat drew a league-high 19,447 fans on the road, allowing the league’s 29 other clubs to reap more revenue from tickets, parking and concessions.
Bloomberg also notes that James’ jersey became the top-selling jersey for the first time since 2004, the year that he debuted as a rookie. Television ratings and merchandise sales were up overall for the Heat as well as for the NBA, proving that it is not just champions who generate interest in sports but controversy.