Two big NBA games Wednesday night set TV ratings records. The unexpected 60-point performance by Kobe Bryant as he wrapped up his 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers was the most-watched regular-season NBA game ever on ESPN2. Meanwhile, the Golden State Warriors’ record 73rd win of the season, which aired at the same time on ESPN, was the cable network’s most-watched NBA regular-season game since January 2014.
The Warriors’ win over the Memphis Grizzlies, which broke the 20-year-old regular-season mark of 72-10 set by the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls, delivered a slightly larger audience than the Lakers game, with 3.649 million total viewers, ESPN reported, citing Nielsen data. Golden State rolled to a 125-104 win over Memphis to finish the season at 73-9.
The Lakers game, in which Bryant rallied L.A. to a 101-96 win over the Utah Jazz to close out his career, delivered 3.465 million viewers. The audience for Bryant’s farewell to fans at the Staples Center after the game reportedly swelled to a peak of 5.381 million.
The NBA coverage set other ratings marks as well. ESPN reported that the Kobe Bryant farewell game was the most-watched NBA regular-season game ever on Spanish-language cable with 116,000 Hispanic p2+ impressions on ESPN Deportes. Both games also set streaming marks on WatchESPN.
“The Los Angeles Lakers’ win over the Utah Jazz produced 24,450,000 total minutes streamed, drew 563,500 unique viewers, and generated an average minute audience of 139,000,” ESPN reported. “The Golden State Warriors’ victory over the Memphis Grizzlies produced a total of 16,200,000 total minutes streamed, drew 426,600 unique viewers and an average minute audience of 113,000 viewers.”
The NBA action lifted ESPN to wins for the night on cable in key demos, including P18-34, P18-49, M18-34, M18-49 and M25-54.