Patrick Bet-David argues LeBron’s political divisiveness and Adam Silver are hurting NBA and its ratings

Peter Dewey
4 Min Read
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Patrick Bet-David, an entrepreneur, author and YouTuber, believes that Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James and NBA commissioner Adam Silver are holding the NBA back and hurting ratings.

“I think two things are holding the NBA back: LeBron James and Adam Silver, period,” Bet-David said. “Because David Stern was a boss. You feared him. He was a liberal. He went to Columbia – I believe he went to one of those liberal schools.”

Bet-David criticized Silver for falling for BLM (Black Lives Matter), and he called the organization a “con organization.”

He then went on to say that James is too divisive to be the face of the NBA.

“LeBron James is a divisive face of the NBA,” Bet-David said. “When you think about a face of the NBA, you know who you want? You want somebody like a Giannis [Antetokounmpo]. You want a [Tom] Brady. You want a Michael [Jordan]. You want a Kobe [Bryant].”

While Bet-David may think that James is a divisive face of the league, the Lakers superstar has been the face of the NBA for many years.

“LeBron is divisive,” said Bet-David. “He makes the game unattractive. He makes it unattractive to watch, unattractive to follow. I haven’t followed the Lakers ever since this guy joined the Lakers.”

One of the greatest players of all time, James has played in 10 NBA Finals in his career, and he’s now the league’s all-time leading scorer.

During James’ eight-season stretch where he made the NBA Finals in every single season (his time with the Miami Heat and his second stint with the Cleveland Cavaliers) there were over 14 million viewers for every single game, according to Sports Media Watch.

Still, James doesn’t always coincide with massive viewership. The 2020 NBA Finals, which happened in the NBA’s Orlando, Fla. bubble due to the COVID-19 pandemic, had lower average viewership than both the 2021 NBA Finals and the 2022 NBA Finals.

While it’s possible that James’ involvement could have led to the lower ratings, the 2020 NBA season was also different than any in NBA history because of the pandemic. The league was forced to put the season on hold for several months before resuming at a neutral site with for fans being in attendance of the games.

Since that NBA Finals, the league has rebounded in viewership with the season following a more normal schedule to previous campaigns.

As for Silver, the commissioner implemented an In-Season Tournament to the league’s schedule this season that actually improved ratings, according to the NBA.

“The Nov. 28 matchup between the Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors on TNT averaged 2M viewers, making it the most-watched NBA In-Season Tournament game to date and up 93% vs. last season’s comparable window,” the NBA shared in a release.

Viewership of games saw an increase not just on nationally televised games, but on regional sports networks as well during the In-Season Tournament.

“The average audience for Group Play games on regional sports networks and over-the-air stations finished up 20% vs. last November’s average,” the NBA shared in a release.

While Bet-David is entitled to his opinion, it seems unnecessary to take a shot at James and Silver – especially since James has done so much in his career and for the league as a whole.

It’ll be interesting to see the viewership of NBA games in the playoffs if James and the Lakers are in the field.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.