NBA Draft Up Slightly for ESPN

Draws Just Under 3M Viewers for Second-Biggest Audience Since it Began Airing Event in 2003

ESPN's coverage of Thursday's NBA Draft averaged a shade under 3 million viewers (2.99), a 1% increase over last year, according to Nielsen.

The 4.5-hour telecast -- which featured a surprise pick at No. 1, numerous trades and a testy on-air exchange between ESPN's Bill Simmons and newly-minted Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers -- ranks as the net's second biggest audience for the annual event it began televising in 2003. 

Only the 2011 draft had more viewers with 3.2 million.

It was the final draft headed by commissioner David Stern, who will step down next February.