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Most Watched NBA Finals Games of All Time | NBA TV Ratings History

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Most Watched NBA Finals Games of All Time | NBA TV Ratings History
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Four of the five most watched NBA Finals games of all time featured Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls. M.J. revolutionized the NBA in the 1990s, and it’s all the more reason why the six-time NBA champion and Finals MVP is the greatest basketball player of all time. Fans wanted to watch him play. The famous “Flu Game” of the 1997 NBA Finals made the list. Needless to say, two games of the 1998 NBA Finals are featured here as well.

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5.) 1997 NBA Finals Game 5 — Bulls vs. Jazz, 30.26M Viewers

One of the most viewed NBA Finals games in history is Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals between the Bulls and Jazz. Though, it’s not for the reason young fans think. Approximately 31 million viewers watched this game because Michael Jordan had flu-like symptoms before the game. It didn’t stop him from playing. For that reason, this game became known as “The Flu Game.” The game received a 20.1 rating.

In the 2020 The Last Dance docuseries, Jordan claimed it was food poisoning, not the flu. Anyway, the Jazz were a flawless 10-0 in the postseason at home prior to this contest. Jordan ended his performance with 38 points in 44 minutes played, lifting the Bulls to a 90-88 road win over the Jazz at Delta Center.

He put up 15 points in the fourth quarter alone. At the end of the game, M.J. could barely even stand. One popular photo shows him falling into Scottie Pippen’s arms.

4.) 1998 NBA Finals Game 5 — Jazz vs. Bulls, 30.59M Viewers

First off, about 30.6 million fans tuned in to watch Game 5 of the 1998 NBA Finals rematch between the Jazz and Bulls. This game received a 19.8 rating. At United Center, the Jazz defeated the Bulls 83-81. Karl Malone led Utah on the stat sheet, finishing his performance with 39 points and 9 rebounds.

On the other side, Scottie Pippen ended his outing with team-highs 11 rebounds and 7 assists. An estimated 23,844 people attended this game. After this NBA Finals game, the Jazz improved their series record to 3-2 against the Bulls. They would go on to lose to the Bulls in six games.

3.) 2016 NBA Finals Game 7 — Cavaliers vs. Warriors, 31.02M Viewers

Furthermore, roughly 31.02 million fans watched Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. The game generated a 15.8 rating. With a record of 73-9, the 2015-16 Warriors finished with the most regular season wins in NBA history.

This game led to comical “Warriors Blew a 3-1 Lead” memes on the Internet. Golden State was not only supposed to defeat Cleveland in this seven-game series, but the team could have won it all in Game 5.

Instead, the Warriors lost the series on their home court. It was the first time in NBA history that both teams entered Game 7 with the same total number of points scored in the series (610 points). LeBron James led the Cavaliers in scoring with 27 points at Oracle Center. He went on to win his third Finals MVP.

Despite Draymond Green contributing 32 points, 15 rebounds and 9 assists, it was not enough for Golden State. The Cavaliers became the first team to win a championship after trailing 3-1 in an NBA Finals series. Plus, the Cavs became the first team since the 1999 Spurs to win all of their playoff series on the road.

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2.) 1993 NBA Finals Game 6 — Bulls vs. Suns, 31.2M Viewers

Moreover, 32.1 million people watched Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals between the Bulls and Suns. The game received a 20.3 rating. A total of 19,023 fans attended this event. Michael Jordan scored a team-high 33 points for the Bulls.

M.J. and John Paxson were the only players to put up points for Chicago in the fourth quarter. And Paxson saved the game for the Bulls. He sank a 3-point shot with 3.9 seconds left of the game. Scottie Pippen closed out his performance with 23 points.

Jordan became the first player in NBA history to win three straight Finals MVPs. At the time, Magic Johnson was the only other player to win three Finals MVPs in the league’s history. LeBron James became the first player since M.J. to win four Finals MVPs after defeating the Heat in the 2020 NBA Finals.

1.) 1998 NBA Finals Game 6 — Bulls vs. Jazz, 35.8M Viewers

Lastly, 35.89 million people watched Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals. Thie game between the Bulls and Jazz received a 22.3 rating. It is the highest rated and most watched NBA Finals game in league history. On Apr. 16, 1998, weeks before the NBA Finals, Jordan announced his decision to retire at the end of the season.

Of course, he then came out of retirement in 2001 to play two seasons with the Wizards. Regarding this thriller, thanks to Jordan’s 45 points and game-winning 3-point shot over Byron Russell, the Bulls won their sixth NBA championship.

The shot gave the Bulls an 87-86 lead with just 5.2 seconds left on the clock. For the final play of the game, John Stockton missed a 3-point shot for the Jazz. Jordan won his sixth NBA Finals MVP award.

In a total of 930 regular season games played with the Bulls, M.J. averaged 31.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.5 steals per game. He won five MVPs and received 10 All-NBA First-Team selections. To add to that, he was the NBA scoring champion 10 times in his playing career.

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James is a Basketball Insiders contributor. He earned his bachelor's degree in English and Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University. James enjoys watching sports and helping gamblers win money.

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