Game One of the Eastern Conference NBA Finals between the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat set a cable television record for most viewers, eclipsing the eyeballs that viewed Michael Jordan‘s last All-Star Game appearance in 2003. Not surprisingly, the Chicago and South Florida markets were the No. 1 and No. 2 contributors to the more than 11.1 million people who watched Sunday’s game. And the No. 3 market? That would be Cleveland, LeBron James‘ home court before he took his talents to South Beach.
So, are Cleveland fans still pulling for The King? I’m sure some of them still are (maybe two or three); but most likely the majority of people tuning in to watch him play are really, really, really hoping that LeBron and the Heat lose, preferably in a demeaning manner. As a longtime Red Sox fan who spent many Octobers rooting against the Yankees, I can assure you this dynamic is real. Red Sox fans, at least until 2004, derived almost as much satisfaction from a Yankees’ loss as a Red Sox’ win. Why? Because the Red Sox hadn’t won in forever, the Yankees won all the time, and rooting against the guy who’s got what you want is human nature.
And since Cleveland fans (Cavaliers, Browns, Indians, et al) haven’t seen a winner in decades, their best rooting interest is whomever LeBron and the Heat are playing.
What else would explain the television numbers? A sudden interest in Cleveland in the post-season exploits of Kyle Korver?