All the hype beyond the South Beach Three paid off as TNT netted the most-watched regular-season cable telecast in NBA history with its coverage of the Miami Heat-Boston Celtics contest Tuesday night.
The Celtics' 88-80 win over the new look Heat, featuring free agents LeBron James and Chris Bosh joining Dwayne Wade in South Beach, posted up a 4.6 U.S. household rating, 5.34 million households and 7.43 million viewers on average, according to Nielsen data. That surpassed the Chicago Bulls, showcasing Michael Jordan, against the Los Angeles Lakers and a fresh-out-of-retirement Magic Johnson on Feb. 2, 1996, which tallied 4.75 million households and 7.27 million viewers.
Locally, the games delivered huge audiences in their home markets of Miami (a 15.5 household rating); a 17.1 in the Boston DMA; and a 10.6 in Cleveland, where King James used to reign.
The second game of the TNT's opening night twinbill, the defending champion Lakers against the Houston Rockets, scored a 2.4 rating, 2.8 million households and 3.72 million watchers.
Locally, the Lakers' come-from-behind win over the Rockers, which featured the return of center Yao Ming, registered a 9.7 in the Los Angeles market and a 7.4 in the Houston DMA.
Together, the games represented TNT's best-ever marks in 27 years of season-opening tipoffs: 3.5 rating, 4.03 million homes and 5.49 million viewers.