It has been expressed numerous times already around the world, but it does bear repeating: the death of NBA basketball legend Kobe Bryant, along with his daughter and several others in a tragic helicopter crash last January 26 was a sorrowful loss to so many people. None outside of his surviving family must feel the pain of his death more than his former team, the Los Angeles Lakers, the sole NBA franchise Kobe played for in his two-decade career. The Lakers played their first major game following the passing of their most famous member last week, and while they lost, the accompanying tribute to Bryant was well worth the dive.
The Hollywood Reporter has it that the January 31 NBA game between the LA Lakers and the Portland Trail Blazers became one of the most-watched league games thus far on ESPN and local Los Angeles broadcaster Spectrum SportsNet. It was after all the first game for the team following the death of Kobe Bryant at age 41 on Sunday of that week. Before the game proper the Lakers, from which Kobe retired from in 2016 after spending his whole NBA life there, gave their fallen champion a most fitting tribute.
Headlining the memorial for Bryant that day at Staples Center was current Lakers ace LeBron James, who gave a touching speech honoring his former teammate while wreaths in the shape of Kobe’s jersey numbers – 8 and 24 – stood behind him. Each seat at Staples was draped with a replica of the fallen NBA star’s jerseys featuring either number, allowing fans in the audience to wear their idol’s gear. For all of the subdued spectacle to give praise to Bryant however, the climax of the game against the Blazers was a letdown when the Lakers lost 119 to Portland’s 127, but honoring Kobe was more the draw, as TV ratings prove.
According to ESPN the audience they got for last Friday’s Lakers game was easily over two time what they get for other NBA games on average. That means 4.41 million viewers or the fourth largest in the current season, with the top three coming from the NBA’s three-game Christmas Day 2019 showcase. For viewer demographics they got a 2.0 rating for both the age 18-49 and age 25-54 adults, the former being a key ad demographic. Spectrum SportsNet meanwhile scored 4.51 for the Lakers game, the second highest household rating for the team this season. Compared to this numbers and the touching Kobe Bryant tribute, the loss was remarkably trivial.
Image courtesy of NY Times