Former Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale says no to the belief that Michael Jordan is responsible for the NBA’s meteoric rise over the years.
Although ESPN’s docu-series The Last Dance hasn’t been kind to Houston Rockets fans, it has provided context to how Michael Jordan helped revitalize the league over the course of his Hall of Fame career. The NBA’s brand has risen considerably ever since the 1984 NBA Draft, which is when Jordan entered the league.
The league’s average attendance improved year-over-year in 12 of the 14 seasons from the 1984-85 season through the 1997-98 season, which is when Jordan retired for the second time. In addition, Jordan helped the Bulls sell out every home game from the 1987-88 season through the 1999-00 season.
The NBA suffered a regression in attendance in each of the three seasons after Jordan’s second retirement in 1998 and those attendance numbers were lower than each of the seasons during the Bulls’ second three-peat.
Jordan’s effect was also on display as it pertains to TV ratings, as the most-watched NBA Finals game to date was in Game 6 of the 1998 Finals, in which Jordan’s Bulls eventually eliminated the Utah Jazz. That game yielded 35.9 million viewers and produced the highest ratings, as 22.3 percent of American households tuned in.
Another Jordan game ranks inside the top-three all-time of NBA Finals games, which is Game 6 of the 1993 NBA Finals, in which Jordan’s Bulls faced off against the Phoenix Suns. During that game, 32.1 million viewers tuned in, and 20.3 percent of US households watched. The Bulls’ six Finals trips yielded an average of 25.2 million viewers and 16.7 percent of American households to tune in.