The opening game of the Eastern Conference final between Miami and Chicago dunked the largest basketball audience in cable history -- deflating "His Airness," Michael Jordan, from the record book in the process.
TNT's coverage of Chicago and MVP Derrick Rose's 103-82 stomping on Miami and its Big 3 of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh on Sunday night scored a 6.2 U.S. household rating, translating into 11.1 million viewers on average, according to Nielsen data.
TNT's May 15 telecast supplanted the "drama" network's coverage of the 2003 NBA All-Star Game -- Michael Jordan's last at the event netted 10.8 million watchers -- as cable's best-ever hoops telecast.
Game 1 of Bulls-Heat ranked 41% above the 4.4 TNT rang up with its coverage of the first game of the 2010 Western Conference final between the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns. Under the current contract with the league, the Turner network alternates Eastern/Western Conference finals coverage with ESPN/ABC, season to season.
Last night's telecast eclipsed Game 1 of Lakers-Suns by some 4 million watchers and 56% in overall audience: 11.1 million to 7.1 million, and 43% in households, 7.17 million versus 5.01 million.
To date, TNT's coverage of the NBA playoffs is up significantly over 2010, averaging a 3.1 rating (+29%), 4.99 million viewers (+33%) and 3.63 million households (30%).