LOS ANGELES -- The Clippers may not be Los Angeles’ team quite yet, but judging from recent television ratings and national headlines, they may have become America’s team during these playoffs.
The Clippers’ 126-121 win over the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night drew 6.0 million viewers, which was TNT’s most-viewed NBA first-round telecast since the Los Angeles Lakers played the Denver Nuggets in 2012. The high ratings are expected to continue next week when the Clippers take on the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals.
“I don’t know about the whole 'America’s Team' and all that stuff,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I guarantee you when we get to Oklahoma, we will not be 'America’s Team,' I can guarantee you that.”
In the wake of racist comments made by Clippers owner Donald Sterling being made public on TMZ late Friday night, the Clippers have become the most watched team in the country.
Last Sunday’s Game 4, which was the Clippers first game after the controversy, drew 6.5 million viewers on ABC, which was up 48 percent from the 4.4 million who watched Game 1 on the network six days earlier.
More than 4.7 million viewers watched Game 5 on TNT just hours after NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced a lifetime ban for Sterling. That was up 34 percent from an average of 3.5 million for the previous two Clippers-Warriors playoff games on the network.
Not only is America tuning in to watch the Clippers play but some of the biggest names in the country are looking to buy the team when Sterling is eventually forced to sell it. Celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Magic Johnson, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Sean Combs and Rick Ross have expressed their desire to join groups to purchase the team.
“It just shows we're a prime franchise,” Clippers guard Jamal Crawford said. “Everybody wants to be a part of it. Those are some of the most famous celebrities in the world, and they all want to be a part of what we're doing, and I think that's an honor.”