The National Basketball Association and its TV networks will put LeBron James
front and center during the upcoming season, as the high-school hoops legend and
his Cleveland Cavaliers will appear in at least one-dozen regular-season games
on Turner Network Television and ESPN.
TNT viewers will get their first look at James in an NBA uniform Oct. 16,
when the drama network covers the Cavs’ preseason game against the Los Angeles
Lakers. The exhibition game will tip at 10:30 p.m. (EST), following a pregame
show at 10 p.m.
For its part, ESPN will get the league's top draft pick's first
regular-season game when Cleveland visits the Sacramento Kings Oct. 29 at 10:30
During the regular season, TNT will show five Cavs games, beginning Oct. 30
against the Phoenix Suns at 10:30 p.m. That contest is part of 19 Thursday-night
doubleheaders TNT will air.
All told, the network will present 52 regular-season games.
James’ and the Cavaliers’ other TNT appearances are scheduled for Dec. 11 at
home vs. the Detroit Pistons, at the Lakers Jan. 12, at the Kings Jan. 22 and
home vs. the Boston Celtics Feb. 9.
In addition to Cleveland's opener versus the Kings, James and crew will make
six other appearances on ESPN and ESPN2, including a Nov. 5 matchup on the
former against No. 3 pick Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets at 8 p.m.
All told, ESPN (64) and ESPN2 (eight) will team up on 72 contests, mostly on
Wednesdays and Friday-night doubleheaders, down from 76 a year ago (ESPN aired
69, ESPN2 ran seven).
Meanwhile, broadcast brethren ABC will host 18 regular-season affairs, up
from 14 during the 2002-03 campaign.
NBA TV will showcase 96 contests, largely on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and
Tuesday nights. An NBA spokesman said at least 50 of those contests will air in
The defending champion San Antonio Spurs and the Dallas Mavericks join the
Lakers and Kings with nine appearances each on TNT. The Houston Rockets,
featuring 2002 top draft pick Yao Ming, are next with eight games, followed by
seven for the Suns and six for the NBA runner-up New Jersey Nets.
Over on ESPN and ESPN2, the Spurs, Rockets, Lakers, Kings, Minnesota
Timberwolves and Philadelphia 76ers will also see network action 10 times. The
Nets and Mavericks will be spotlighted nine times apiece.
An NBA spokesman noted, though, that the networks have flexibility with their
schedules and some modifications can be made to their TV lineups.
As James and the Cavs will get their moments on the screen, the Michael
Jordan-less Washington Wizards have airballed the schedules on TNT, ESPN and
ABC. Last season, "His Airness" and the Wizards were on those networks a
combined 19 times, and six other Washington games were available on NBA TV.
In the upcoming season, the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat are also expected to
be shut out from game coverage on TNT, ESPN and ABC.
However, the league spokesman said, all NBA teams will appear on NBA TV,
which currently has carriage deals with DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications
Corp. League officials maintained that distribution deals in the cable space
will be made before the season tips off.