The NBA Finals, taking place in July for the first time, averaged 9.9 million viewers, representing the fourth-lowest figure this century, as noted Monday by my Axios counterpart Kendall Baker. The only three Finals to pull in smaller audiences were last season’s Finals from the Walt Disney World bubble (Lakers vs. Heat) that were staged much later than usual in October, 2007 (Spurs vs. Cavaliers) and 2003 (Spurs vs. Nets). The league has long maintained that such audience measures are incomplete, since they roughly account for only 10% of international markets and do not include figures from social media platforms or its League Pass streaming service.
He had to get to the Bradley Center, then the Bucks’ arena, for a game against the Charlotte Bobcats that night — Nov. 23, 2013. And he didn’t have a coat on because, well, he was 18 and Milwaukee is a different world than Athens. Jane Gallop, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a rabid Bucks fan (and my aunt), was in the car with her longtime partner Dick Blau, also a professor at UW-M but considerably less basketball obsessed. They were out shopping when they spotted the skinny 6-foot-11 rookie, wearing jeans and no winter jacket, sprinting. “He was not just walking or jogging. He was running,” Gallop said. “He wasn’t dressed like people who run for exercise. He was wearing jeans. I looked at him and I thought, This person doesn’t know how to dress when it’s 18 degrees.”
Having reached an agreement that he would buy a winter jacket after the game, they drove Antetokounmpo another mile or so to the Bradley Center, where Bucks’ assistant coach Josh Oppenheimer observed the rookie getting out of the backseat of a tiny car and understandably had questions. “Giannis goes to the entrance where the players go into the arena,” Gallop said. “This guy is standing in the parking lot.” “I’m pulling into the arena and get out,” Oppenheimer told The Athletic. “He’s getting out of this car and goes, ‘Hey, Coach!’ I’m like, ‘Who is that?’ He goes, ‘I don’t know. Oh, but they’re very nice,’ and told me the story. I said, ‘Giannis. You can’t get into the car with people you don’t know!’ But to him, they were nice people.”
There was plenty of drama in the first half of Game 5 in Phoenix: Devin Booker had 15 points and the Suns raced out to a 16-point lead, doubling up the Bucks in the first quarter, then the Suns went cold and the Bucks got hot behind 18 from Jrue Holiday and came back to take a 64-61 halftime lead. None of those guys were the stars of the first half: It was this Suns fan counting out $100 bills with the crowd during the Giannis Antetokounmpo free throw counts.