Shaq, LeBron, Kobe and Melo will get plenty of national cable exposure next season as both ESPN and TNT announced their respective 2009-10 National Basketball Association schedules Tuesday.
TNT will air 53 prime-time telecasts during the season - including 44 as part of its exclusive Thursday night doubleheader package -- beginning Oct. 27, the network said.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, featuring newly acquired Shaquille O'Neal and league MVP LeBron James, the Denver Nuggets -- led by Carmelo Anthony -- and the defending Eastern Conference champion Orlando Magic will make 10 appearances each on TNT.
Kobe Bryant and the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers, along with the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls, will make nine appearances each on TNT.
The network, which will tip off the NBA season Oct. 27 with a Cleveland-Boston and L.A. Lakers/L. A. Clippers doubleheader telecast, is coming off a successful 2008-09 campaign in which it averaged 1.7 million viewers per game -- an increase of 14% over the previous season.
"The continued growth of the NBA on TNT over the past two years has reinforced both the strength of the property and our great partnership with the NBA," said David Levy, president of ad sales, distribution and sports for Turner Broadcasting System, Inc in a statement. "Our increased viewership for the regular season and the playoffs is proof of the enduring popularity of the NBA."
ESPN will air 75 telecasts as part of a 90-game package that includes coverage on sister broadcast network ABC. As with last year, the games will also be made available live via broadband service ESPN360, as well as through select telecasts on ESPN Mobile TV.
ESPN's Wednesday and Friday night game coverage begins with an Oct. 28 New Orleans Hornets -San Antonio Spurs and Utah Jazz-Denver Nuggets doubleheader telecast. The Celtics and Lakers will appear on ESPN and ABC 16 times, while Cleveland and Orlando will be featured 15 times
Also, ESPN and ABC will team to air five Christmas games, with ESPN televising the New York-Miami, Los Angeles Clippers-Phoenix, and Denver-Portland matchups, while ABC airs the Boston-Orlando Magic and Cleveland-L.A. Lakers games.
ESPN will look to build on a record-setting 2008-09 NBA campaign that drew an average of 1.6 million viewers.